Since around the end of October, I have been birding almost exclusively at local sites in the Wensum Valley. This hasn’t been entirely on purpose, it just seems to have happened that way and I find so much space to reflect and a stronger, more tangible connection with the outdoors and nature in general when I’m out on my own.
I have been out birding on a more social basis a few times in the last few months; once with my local group and once with a friend. On both occasions, the emphasis was as much on social interaction as it was the birding. Not to say I didn’t enjoy the conversations, jokes and sharing of experiences but the experience of birding solo and visiting the same sites has an altogether different vibe to it.
I forged myself a route, taking in various sites that I’ve visited before or people have advised I check out. Visiting new birding sites that are under-watched and barely visited is fantastic. Whilst plotting my route, I tried to ensure I took in a range of habitats in order to try and maximize the different birds I would see. However, it has been the ‘filler’ in-between destinations where I’ve struck gold.
A slow second gear trundle up a quiet lane, bins ready around the neck… A flurry of colour and 3 pairs of Bullfinches are in view. Handbrake on, watching… Such beautiful tones, salmon pink and pitch black, resonant against the spindly hedgerows. The hedgerows that line either side of this particular lane are a designated ‘roadside conservation area’. They provide a perfect habitat for Tits, Thrushes and Finches. In this area alone I’ve been spoilt with farmland birds. As I drove down another blame nearby, the road and hedgerow were heaving with birds, although my car flushed them into an adjacent field. I pulled over and snatched a look, then positioned myself to the field edge for a better look. Wow… 15 Yellowhammer perched up in a bare tree, a single peachy Brambling flanked by a number of green, gold and chaff-finches. It’s these moments I become lost in… It’s these moments I treasure.
Patterns are important to me and my mental health. They help me to make sense of what I’m thinking and feeling. Revisiting the same local places regularly is so rewarding in the way it produces and embeds an expectation. Seeing the same species makes me feel connected to them in a way, I know what to expect, I know what should be in a place I visit on a regular basis; watching a place change week by week with the weather and the seasons is a viewfinder on nature in general. Obviously finding and observing something that’s new to a place is immensely rewarding too, for mine and the areas records; as well as being a great feeling.
Long may I keep it local!