Thursday, 22 April 2010

Local Patch(es)

A splendid comment from Rachel in a previous post, has inspired me to write this, my 100th post.

I'm very envious of you being able to get out and take such lovely shots. I just don't seem to have the time (or the skill with my camera). I have some pretty good garden wildlife shots but that's as exciting as it gets. Any tips on how to get started further afield?

I think the best way to get started is to find, what some call, a local patch - an area you can easily visit and gradually learn the area. To give an idea of what can be found on the doorstep, I've dedicated this post to my local patches.
I am lucky (or greedy) to have three - close to where I live and work, where I can get out and escape and just enjoy the environment.  The wildlife, the night sky or the interesting people you meet along the way.  I venture to my local patches in the evening when I come back from work, grabbing a few minutes at lunch time or in even very early in the morning if I can't sleep - a good time for muntjac spotting.

The river Ock and meadow:
Right next to where I live and is the main focus of this blog - a place where water voles can be seen regularly, red kites fly overhead and kingfishers dart along the river.  A haven, even if the A34 can intrude at times.

River Thames and Radley Brook
An area right next to where I work, there was once a strong water vole colony along the brook.  But this seems to have suffered by the arrival of mink in the area.  But on days like today, it's a stunning area just to admire the river

Or watch insects, like this speckled wood butterfly:

The Cothill Fens
Right next to Abingdon are five nature reserves that form the Cothill Fens.  A diverse range of habitats that include man made fens:

And streams - including Sandford Brook - a tributary of the Ock:

As well as delightful fossils in the sandstone cliffs:

I don't think there is a better way to relax than to watch a water vole swimming across a river; seeing a queen bumblebee try and find a nesting site or watching a bird of prey circling up above or even the ostracods in the pond - who could have thought a 2mm crustacean could be so entertaining?.
The more I learn about these animals and places, the more I appreciate them - the internet, especially Wild about Britain and the blogs I follow have helped me identify and learn about many of things I've encountered.
So returning to Rachel's comments, my tips would be buy an ordnance survey map and explore where you live and work and  use the internet to learn about what you see.
You never know, you might see a kingfisher, badger or like I did this evening, eight water voles.


  1. Thanks for this, Richard. It's very helpful. I'm particularly keen on birds at the moment and recently a pair of bullfinches have started visiting my garden which I'm very excited about.
    I'm originally from Abingdon but now live in Leicester. There are some good places to explore around here and as I'm visiting my Dad in a couple of weeks' time I'll try and visit one of the places you mention above. I'll let you know how I get on!

  2. Ironically, I used to live in Leicester and now live in Abingdon.
    I am very envious of your bullfinches - I've only every seen two, so to have them in your garden is brilliant.
    Please let me know how you get on in Abingdon - any pics & I'll post them and there is always space for more wildlife blogs.