Does Patch Birding Make You Grumpy?

The Month of June

Mark Lewis What is it about June? Granted, the end of the month can be a bit quiet, but at the beginning of June we are very much in the thick of it, in terms of opportunities to find rare birds. Why then, does it bring such negativity out of Patchwork Challengers?!   Back in June 2013, as well as a smattering of classic late spring scarcities, June provided a Bonaparte’s Gull, and up to the point of writing, the only Paddyfield Warbler that’s ever been recorded on a PWC patch.  Most notable though, was a large number of people who seemed to be a little dispirited by it all… 16 White-billed Diver Fast forward to June 2014, and we have a similar situation. There were some great birds available, for example the now regular Glossy Ibis, as well as Blyth’s Reed Warbler, Citrine Wagtail, White-billed Diver, and best of all, a Pallid Swift at Portland. In spite of all this, the general trend of reports that made their way into our scoresheet was not particularly positive!

Pallid Swift by Miki Vigiano

Pallid Swift by Miki Vigiano

Now let’s get one thing straight – I’m not accusing Patchwork Challenge contestants of being negative – far from it, but when your highlights column frequently contains expressions such as ‘yawn…’, ‘sigh’, and something utterly unprintable from a certain Irish contestant (you know who you are!), it makes you wonder if there is something going on.   I think we can speculate as to why June brings us down without looking into it too deeply. I think it’s simply because it comes after April and May. The additions to the patch list come thick and fast over these two months, and they are both crammed with rarity potential. Then, after about ten days in June, it all seems to dry up. It feels like there is nothing new to look at, and it feels like the autumn is a long way away. It feels like time to dust off the flower guide, or the moth book…

by Igor Maiorano

by Igor Maiorano

First of all, is this actually a thing? Is there an increase in ‘negativity’ in June or am I just bored and looking for it in others? Well, the graph below shows the number of scores entered for each month, and the number of those for which there was either a completely blank highlights and best finds column (‘blanks’), or, the only comment in either was negative (‘negs’). graph 1 OK, so it’s not a massive difference, but there’s clearly a higher proportion of negatives than in the four preceding months. If you look a little more closely, you can see that this increase is made up of an increase in the number of blanks, but also there is a sharp increase in ‘negs’ as well. graph 2 So what does all this mean? Well, lets hope it doesn’t mean that Patch Birding makes you grumpy! I’m sure it’s a result of all the effort and hope we invest in April and May – but is there anything that can be done to beat the summer blues?

Summer blues?                              Fulmar in Norwegian is called ´havhest´, literally meaning ´sea horse´. This is the dark summer blue horse.

Summer blues?
Fulmar in Norwegian is called ´havhest´, literally meaning ´sea horse´. This is the dark summer blue horse.

It seems there might be. There might not be a lot in it, but it seems like the green birders, those who’s score is accumulated without the aid of a car, seem to be a little less likely to be negative than everyone else in the spring. Green birders seem to be very negative in the winter (starting in February on the graphs, as we didn’t collect any ‘green’ info in January) but as the spring progresses the greenies ‘negativity’ is consistently below what would be expected if the proportions of green to non green scores were taken into account. graph 3 I wonder why the change. Could it be something as fundamental as the weather? Could it be something to do with those getting a bit more exercise feeling like all of the effort has been a little more worthwhile? Who knows. Perhaps, after all this waffle and pseudoscience, the first graph gives the most important message – and that’s that the ‘negatives’ are always a small proportion of the scores given. So there may be some fluctuations, but generally, we all enjoy patch birding! It certainly keeps me positive. ,

Fingers crossed there are some birds to write about next time though…;-)

you never know... the right time of year is from now on for a male Black-headed Wagtail. They look rather green-headed in August

you never know… the right time of year is from now on for a male Black-headed Wagtail. They look rather green-headed in August


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