Wildlife Patchworks – or going around my circle



A birder’s patch is simply the area that he or she knows best and goes birding in. It is the place to which we pay particular attention.  This is a very old and widespread concept – it might be your garden, a local park, the fields behind the place you work, a stretch of woodland along a local riverbank – we all have them.  For me, one of the purposes of patchworking is to record what I find on wanders from home and, inter alia, to persuade other people to do some patchworking as well.

The trouble is is that while I mostly concentrate on birds I also like to stop and watch the squirrels or take photographs of (digitally collect) plants or follow a butterfly or beetle to see what it is up to and so I am probably not a true birder per se, more a wildlifer. The other problem is that what I consider to be my patch shifts and changes with the seasons and my fancy.  To be sure, I perhaps spend most time in the local arboretum but there are always plenty of interesting things to take note of just walking to the post-box or the local shops. Some consistency does help, however and so I have decided that my wildlife patch will be a “Wildlife Circle”.

What’s a Wildlife Circle? A Wildlife Circle is nothing more than an arbitrary circle drawn around your home within which you decide to become the local expert on the wildlife and plants that interest you. Making it a circle is a simple way to define its boundaries and concentrate your efforts and is also a means to compare your patch with those of other wildlifers. It is taking the age old birders “patch” to a new level.

However, apropos the tenets of GreenBirding (q.v.) my belief is that it should not be so large that you cannot get around it by foot or cycle or canoe – the internal combustion engine is not a major part of this endeavour. The actual size of your circle is your choice and depends on your level of fitness and ambition. I must be honest here – I do most of my circling by self-powered means but I am not a 100% purist and there are occasions in which I get the car out – a Snowy Owl after a snowstorm would be a pretty good reason to do so!

The concept was derived from the census circles used in north America for the Christmas Bird Counts.  The CBC circles are far too large for this to be at all practical without a car but I have found that a circle of about 7.5 to 8 km diameter is just about right … as we age that will doubtless shrink but for most people a circle of that size is enough to hold a good variety of habitats and wildlife interest. If there is a particularly choice pond or spinny or field at the edge of the circle that you choose for yourself then feel free to add a bulge to the perimeter that will incorporate it … all that’s needed is a  desire to define a mixed habitat patch around home in which to try to learn everything you can about the creatures and plants that share it with you.

This is my circle … mixed suburban and cultivated land with some interesting lake and river habitat to the west of one of the world’s great cities.  Typical of the sort of place many, many wildlifers live and it is surprisingly species rich.