Once again I have to thank/blame Steve Gale (Northdowns and Beyond) for the inspiration for this post. The catalyst is a very simple post; questioning the viability of sustained patch watching, at some high profile local sites, which caused a superb response (via the comments facility on Blogger). Young David Campbell, in particular, has made great efforts to explain his frustration at the perceived lack of coverage of his "patch" since he moved away in order to further his education. The last time I looked there were 24 comments, including one by me, thus an indication of the level of interest raised by this subject.
Now, whilst I have no right to make comment, based upon my recent activity within birding - local patch birding is the only way by which I retain any contact with what's going on. Newland's Farm is the land between where I live (West Dumpton) and where I work (Pyson's Road Ind Est.) As such, I am patch watching for the majority of my waking hours - if I am outdoors and not fishing!
For me, this form of birding is purely for personal fulfilment, nothing to do with BTO atlas work, county bird reports or self-aggrandisement. Very simply the enjoyment of being able to watch wildlife within a few yards of our bungalow is what keeps me enthused (plus the fact that I have got to walk back and forth between the two places five times every working week!)
In a reply to my comment, Steve says that there are many such individuals, who are out there, binoculars at the ready, enjoying their local parks, woodland, reservoirs and gravel pits, without feeling the pressure to become involved. Not, for them, the desire to become famous, to play any great role in scientific data gathering, just to derive the very simple pleasure to be had by looking at nature, in what ever form.
Where does the disillusioned bit come from? Well - and this is all in my past - there was a time when Planetthanet.org was a major part of my life. Gadget had the skills, and the contacts, to provide the Internet with an information resource that, at it's peak, was able to boast over a million hits per month! Spectacular success for such a simple idea. It seems, however, that despite this info being provided FOC, parasitic website (Birdguides etc) happily plundered the news. Not such a big deal until we realised that these pirates were then selling the information to their subscribers. Obviously there is the counter argument that this information was placed into the cyber system, therefore freely available to all to access. However, I am sure that this perception, of theft, is responsible for the demise in up to date "Blogs" - news release is delayed because individual bloggers have had enough of these thieving cyber entities!
I've had a gut full - Birdguides are a superb website, but if I want to report a sighting I have the option to send an e-mail (being a computer numpty) or can ring a phone "hot-line". I have used this facility to release "patch news" on many occasions. The last time was the Great Grey Shrike, but there have been Lapland Bunting, Red-backed Shrike, Ring Ouzel, and Pink-footed Geese (amongst others) that have been directly reported to the rare bird network. The fact that they see fit to take whatever they want, from wherever they want, does nothing to endear them with local patch watchers. The threat of "twitching exuberance" being imposed on your local patch is also a consideration. The crazy fall-out of "Dusky-gate" is testament enough to demonstrate why many "patch watchers" now steer well clear of publicity.
As an individual, I am probably better able to deal with this crap than the average patch watcher - factory life does that to a man - but I fully understand how much pressure can be exerted by these channels of influence. I find it so sad that Gavin succumbed to this pressure - he being a fine blogger and all-round decent bloke. Who's lost out? All of us - that's who! Gavin was an angler before he moved to Devon, he enjoyed cycling but, he remained a staunch patch-watcher; posting some fabulous stuff about the birding to be enjoyed around his local area. I'm sure that he remains as interested in birds/natural history as he ever was. The loss of his blog is just another indication that the pressures of conformity are detrimental to involvement of those individuals who have more than a single brain cell between their ears.
I am not silly enough to think that every one reading this stuff is of the same opinion - but before you select the comment button - just think who else you have to convince with your view point? I'm going pike fishing, with Gadget, tomorrow - so don't give a f**k !