Know your Patch

Andy Karran

Lockdown has meant your local area has become your world. Here Twheatear, gives a great guide on how to really appreciate and benefit from all things wild and wonderful, in your local area. So, why not venture out this spring and see what you can discover on your local patch.

During lockdown, you may get into the habit of following a regular route for your exercise.

As you walk, run or cycle – especially if the route goes through different habitats – it’s interesting to try to identify characteristic species that will tell you where you are. We’ve been doing a 6km circular walk that takes us from the centre of Abergavenny, through the outskirts, past some woodland and out into agricultural land.

At each stage, we look and listen out for particular birds, though you could probably do the same for plants or insects.

In the town centre, we often hear the chirps of House Sparrows from roofs and gutters. Starlings can be seen perched on chimneys and TV aerials: their calls are an amazing mixture of ‘found sounds’, both the calls of other birds and human ones such as car alarms. In summer, House Martins swoop around catching insects to take back to their nests under gutters and barge boards; in a few fortunate places swifts have a similar lifestyle.

Walking through Abergavenny town centre we hear birds

Andrew Cormack

Walking through Abergavenny town centre we see and hear birds including house sparrows

Walking on towards the edge of the town, we’re more likely to hear Blackbirds and Song Thrushes, and see Blue tits and Great tits flying between garden feeders. The town centre birds are less common here, perhaps because modern houses offer them fewer places to nest.

Walking towards the edge of Abergavenny town looking for birds

Andrew Cormack

Towards the edge of Abergavenny town we hear more birds including  blackbirds and song thrushes.

As we go under the railway and by-pass, the lane passes through a wooded stretch. Here we look out for Dippers if the stream is running; listen for the high-pitched circling song of Goldcrests, the rattle of Mistle Thrushes, which are distinctively larger, slimmer and greyer than their cousins in town; in summer we might hear the song of a Blackcap from deep in a bramble patch – starting scratchy but ending with some of the clearest flute notes of any British bird; in winter, flocks of winter thrushes – Fieldfares and Redwings – come down from the far north in search of fruits.

wooded area Abergavenny

Andrew Cormack

A wooded stretch under the railway and by-pass

A field in Abergavenny

Andrew Cormack

Our local walk opens out into fields

Out into fields, where the most common summer birds are Swallows flying low to catch insects. On sunny days there’s often a Buzzard or two circling (after rain they are more likely to be on the ground, letting down the “bird of prey” category by hunting for worms); we may hear the squawk of a pheasant. House Sparrows reappear around farm buildings, even though they are largely absent from the space between farm and town. Then it’s up to the top of the hill, and back down through the sequence in reverse.

Some birds can be seen anywhere on the walk: Woodpigeons, Magpies and Wrens, for example. And we’re usually fortunate enough to see a Red Kite somewhere, though they seem to be equally often seen soaring over fields or town. Next time you go out, try making your own nature map. After a few visits you’ll start to notice ‘regulars’: the berry bush that a Mistle Thrush defends against all comers or in the spring, the house where Martins or Sparrows nest, the tree where a Song Thrush declares its territory. Then you’ll be well on the way to the sort of local familiarity that birders call a ‘patch’.

Share your local patch wildlife sightings

If you photograph or film anything on your spring patch walks then please share them on Gwent Wildlife Trust's social media channels on Instagram Twitter and Facebook 

You can also join and share your images and films on the Gwent Wildlife Spotting group