My Local Birding Patch

A Little Ringed Plover, a small wading bird, on a pebbly bank

I love birding at my local patch. If you're not familiar with the term, it's a convenient place, ideally with some variety of habitats, where you're likely spend a lot of time birding. It isn't necessarily a 'birding hotspot' or even a particularly beautiful piece of countryside, but it's somewhere close to home or work that you can easily visit regularly.

I've mentioned my local patch before - Rushy Common is a small nature reserve in the Lower Windrush Valley, an area of gravel pits and farmland only 2.5 miles from my home. If I've only got an hour or two spare (which tends to be the case), I can maximise my time spent birding, rather than travelling. It has a fairly spacious hide, as it was purpose built for wheelchair access. Bird Hides can take many forms, and I've been in ones that are little more than a cold concrete seat and wall. I'm a bit of a lazy birder, I like to sit, watch and see what happens. I always find that the longer I stay still and just be aware, the more I see, and the less anxiety I have. It's blissful.

…the longer I stay still and just be aware, the more I see, and the less anxiety I have. It's blissful.

A local patch is somewhere you get to know quite deeply, knowing which birds favour what parts of the reserve. The top of the pylon where there might be a Peregrine Falcon, the nest box where a Barn Owl might emerge at dusk. Over 4 years I've seen 100 different species there, which is probably a little misleading, as 90% of the time I see the same core common species. Coot, Great Crested Grebe, Cormorant and Canada Geese. On a 'normal day', Rushy Common can be quiet, which makes it all the more exciting when something unexpected turns up, like last weekend! I've started extended the area of the Rushy Common patch a bit to include Gill Mill Quarry workings, and it's been attracting some very interesting birds (in local patch terms).

The first of these were Little Ringed Plovers - one of my favourites! I was lucky and managed to get some very close views of a pair on a 'scrape':

This was shot handheld-ish (resting on a fence) with my Canon R7 + RF 800mm lens. The bird was quite skittish and I didn't want to miss the action getting my tripod setup - hence the shaky footage (and heavy breathing - oops) trying to keep it on the Plover.

It's a great setup, but even with a 800mm lens, some birds are just too far away to photograph. This is where digiscoping can be a fallback - using my birding scope and an adapter to hold my iPhone and align the x3 lens with the scope's eyepiece. It's a technique that needs patience, a decent sturdy tripod, and good light. I also use Halide camera app, as the default camera app doesn't let you use the telephoto lens when on the eyepiece. My hunch is that it detects a close object and switches to the x1 lens 'to be helpful'. When you choose x3 in Halide, it stays on x3, and you also get handy-for-digiscoping advanced features like Focus Peaking and a remote shutter for the Apple Watch - well worth the money!

With digiscoping you have to lower your expectations a bit. It's literally taking a photo of the eyepiece of a scope, but in this instance the bird was stationary, and distance and light quality were on my side. This is the best image I've ever taken digiscoping:

A Golden Plover, a medium sized wading bird, standing on the shoreline, with a reflection in the water

Golden Plover! Another first for the patch list, and what a beauty with its intricate gold-flecked feather patterning. Here is video footage of a couple of Golden Plovers, that was also digiscoped:

Last one: I also managed to get this photo of a lone Wheatear bobbling along the scrape:

A Wheatear resting on gravel

I came home absolutely buzzing that day.