I really really really love birding. I enjoy birding on many different levels, from chasing regional rarities to bird photography; from meeting other birders at bird festivals to coordinating the ABA Bird of the Year program. When I ponder which aspect of birding I find most enjoyable it has to be... birding my local patch. Seeing a new bird at my patch is an equivalent thrill to seeing a life bird. And double the fun when I see a life bird on my patch! Becoming an expert on the birds in my neck of the woods is soul satisfying and personally fulfilling. Why is that? I wonder.
My favorite personal patch is the Avimor community in the foothills north of Eagle and Boise, Idaho where I work and have lived. Avimor was a private ranch for over 100 years and so birders never birded here before 2007. 20,000 acres of undiscovered country as far as birding was concerned. 140 species have now been documented over the last seven years at my patch. I've seen all but a couple of these species myself. A handful of other birders have been contributing to the growing list of species and hotspots within the patch. Nobody even realized what a birding gem that this area could be. That little wanna-be National Geographic explorer in me finds immense satisfaction in being a birding pioneer in this corner of the world.
eBird has been my tool for recording bird sightings at my patch. In 2010, I finally succeeded in submitting at least one checklist for every week of the year. With each new year and each new season, the accumulating data makes the eBird barchart for Avimor more complete, more accurate, and more robust. These barcharts become a tool themselves for me in understanding the arrival and departure dates of migrating species. I can look at other graphs in eBird to better understand frequency and high/low counts. I can unapologetically and proudly say that nobody knows Avimor birding better than me. It is my patch and they have become my birds.
In just a few years of regularly birding the place, I've come to recognize some of the individual birds. I know the best places to see certain species during the various seasons. I've learned where most species prefer to nest, roost, and feed. I'm creating memories and associations with the birds and the landscape. "Here's the grove of trees where the Lewis's Woodpeckers will show up for two weeks in May. There is the rock where a Canyon Wren came and hung out at eye level to the delight of my group of beginning birders. In that little depression is the nursery for young Lazuli Buntings in late summer. Here's where I saw my life Gray Catbird and over there a Pacific Wren. That rock pinnacle is where a Ferruginous Hawk nested a couple years ago. In those Hackberry trees up that draw you can kind find Great Horned Owls or Long-eared Owls nesting on old Black-billed Magpie nests."
So, a deep and intimate knowledge of my patch and its birds combined with the adventure of discovery makes patch birding an incomparable thrill.
Tell me about your patch and what makes it great. Or what aspect of birding do you find most soul-satisfying and fulfilling?