Like “twitching” (the manic hunt to see new species of birds) the term “patch” may have its origins in the United Kingdom. Unlike “twitching” however, “patch” is a sweet term, a nod to the quilt. The quilt that covers the entire bed is in fact small pieces of familiar cloth sewn together. In this way the landscape in which we live is a quilt, too large to be fully explored. However, within this quilted world are single patches of land, the size of a park, a conservation tract, or wildlife sanctuary. These patches of land can be easily walked in a morning and prove to be chuck full of wildlife, often amidst a background of skyscrapers and elevated freeways. These little pockets of green, slivers of streams and marsh allow the urban bird watcher to escape the grinding mechanical world for deeply held breathes of calm and oxygen. Frequent visits to a small, often overlooked piece of land over the course of a season even years leads to deep learning about the area’s natural ebb and flow. Patch birding forces focus, rather than panning binoculars over Ken Burns expanses of beach and mountaintop, patch birding is like looking through a magnifying glass; subtle details appear like the location of a nest site, the scene of a kill, or fresh prints in the mud and snow. These patches are not always sanctioned spaces and can include the forgotten and behind places that exist at the edge of the baseball field, under the highway, or along the train tracks. Birding the patch is an act of mediation, like practicing the scales or shooting a hundred foul shots. Patch birding builds skills, but is also a full experience. It is the quiet and secretiveness of being hidden by branches, and the joy of finding warblers and a thrush, flushing a woodcock and discovering an owl. Find your patch and bird it!
is an educator, bird watcher, and writer fascinated by the intersections of place, people, nature, and culture. He works for Mass Audubon and lives in the heart of Massachusetts. For questions or comments please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org