Looks like 2013 is the year that local patches and green birding are the main national birding focus, with two challenges set up that are sure to get a lot of people out flogging their patches and local areas.
When I defined my patch, I wanted it to be away from the generally well-watched hot-spots in the county but also to have at least some potential, and also to be close to home but to keep it separate from my garden list and immediate local area list (which is generally south from home). I therefore defined what I call the Soar Valley South patch which is within a few minutes drive north and outside of Whetstone.
So what are the two challenges ...
First up is an on foot from home in January challenge - Foot It. The area can be as big or small as you like with one constraint - you have to walk the whole way there and back from home. I've registered with a 3km radius from my home which means I can just about get to Jubilee Park and Narborough Bog, which are actually in the southern part of the patch. I can also go the other way from home down the lane towards Whetstone Pastures. This means I get the best potential out of my three local lists (garden, OFFH and patch). Here is my Foot It area:
As you can probably gather from this, I've set myself a target of 63 species. This will not be a doddle, and there will be a few species that I see south from home that may not register on the patch list (like Yellowhammer).
The Patchwork Challenge covers the whole year, and is a patch yearlisting challenge with the only contraint being that the patch must be 3km2 max. I order to meet this, I've basically defined a cut-out from my normal patch which includes all the best birdy bits I visit. See how I've managed to include Narborough Bog and the balancing pool
and scrape field at Grove Park.
Both challenges are being run with a handicap scoring system. For Foot It, the score that will be compared is your actual achieved number of species as a percentage of the target you declared in advance - my target is 63 species. For the Patchwork Challenge, each species has a point value and the comparative score is your achieved point value versus an average that you've previously achieved on the patch. As my patch is essentially an inland birding wasteland then my average is a very modest 83 'points'.
The competitive element is just for fun, but the main thing is getting everyone out doing some local birding and logging records on the BTO BirdTrack system. Looking forward to getting started.