A blog written by Young Ambassador Charlie Murphy

It is evident that we are in a climate crisis. This means we cannot continue on as normal, and that should be present in all walks of life. Wildlife watching might be one activity that feels immune to all of these problems, as it’s actively engaging in an environment, but with the fragmentation and degradation of habitats it is all too easy to hop in the car and head off to the coast or even go abroad to soak up some sun and exotic species, without thinking twice about the expense of emissions.

This is where local and patch birdwatching comes into play. In essence, it’s the true beginning and roots of birdwatching. It’s looking at birds in your garden and noticing the smallest of changes, and appreciating the little things whether that be an increase in blackbirds at the onset of winter, or that very first chaffinch song of spring.

Photo of a chaffinchImage caption: A male chaffinch, birds that bookend winter, with millions arriving in the autumn from Scandinavia to being one of the first to start singing on sunny February days. Image credit: Charlie Murphy

There will inevitably be days where everything feels the same and nothing has changed, but this only makes those days of change, of mass migration, of weather shifts, even sweeter.

Photo of snow in winter

Image caption: Snowfall - one of the weathers that gets a patch birder up and out instantly as cold weather movement can produce all sorts of good birds. Image credit: Charlie Murphy

Making your own little patch, to walk around and watch regularly can bring so much joy, but also a deeper sense and connection with a place - somewhere to really get to know well.

Low-carbon birdwatching can also still entail travelling to places, but by alternative means. Cycling and walking are the most obvious methods with a mixture of fast, easy travel, and zero-carbon. It can also be an adventure and a wildlife filled one at that, making travelling to sites far more enjoyable and noteworthy. With this zero-carbon birding, it can also be good for the body, enjoying long walks and building up fitness whilst looking at animals has numerous benefits. Public transport also works and particularly for a few well-known sites or a bit of urban birding it can be surprisingly easy to get around and enjoy a very good day.

From my ‘base’ in Shrewton, I have made myself a small five square mile patch, incorporating as much good habitat as I can. This area is often what gets me most excited when I see a good weather day or reports of migrant birds inland. It offers an entirely different perspective of birding. Species, such as wigeon, make a red-letter day on my patch, whereas in many top sites they’re a bird to hardly take a second look at. The in-depth detail and gaining of knowledge over time is something that I personally treasure.

I also cycle a fair amount in order to explore local areas. Salisbury Plain is right on my doorstep, and I often spend hours cycling the tracks, listening for rising Skylarks in the summer and scanning for quartering Hen Harriers in the winter.

Cycling to the brilliant Langford Lakes is also a journey I do regularly, usually with panniers attached to carry my birdwatching kit. 

Photo of Langford Lakes in the morning

Image caption: The sight of Langford Lakes early in the morning- not one to be missed. Image credit: Charlie Murphy

This is great as I can always guarantee a good day there, whether it be a kingfisher fly-by or some green sandpipers in the scrape, and I’ve even had a few local rarities there including Greater White-fronted Goose and a Red-footed Falcon.

Photo of greater white fronted geese

Image caption: A Greater White-fronted Goose (of the Russian subspecies)- one of a family party that unexpectedly showed up at Langford Lakes and created a day to remember. Image credit: Charlie Murphy

It’s also possible to do multiple day birdwatching trips cycling by bikepacking. I enjoyed an overnight tour of South Wilts, stopping in at a variety of places over the course of 2 days just seeing what I could do and what I could see whilst pedalling around- turns out a fair amount!

See Charlie's list of sightings

This is most definitely something I’d want to more of (definitely more of a summer activity) and feel like it could be utilised as a great way to get to know an area very well whilst having fun, an adventure and hopefully seeing great birds, all in an environmentally friendly way that is so desperately needed right now.

Photo of bike packing

Image caption: Bikepacking seems to be a very viable way to see lots of habitats and different birds in a green, fun and exciting way. Image credit: Charlie Murphy

Explore a nature reserve near you!

Charlie is an 18 year old Wiltshire birder & naturalist. Follow him on Twitter @crpm2003