Friday, 14 December 2012

@PatchBirding Morgan's Hill - Patchwork Challenge

Morgan's Hill is nationally important for the quality of its chalk grassland and the diversity of fauna and butterflies. However, Morgan's Hill (and the North Wessex Downs in general) is not widely appreciated for its avifauna. 

I intend to show that this is a misconception and that, in fact, the North Wessex Downs is a great place to go birding, and maybe (with a little luck) see something unusual. 

To this end, I have taken up the Patchwork Challenge. Essentially I will record all the birds that I see in an area of 3 OS grid squares roughly centred on Morgan's Hill Reserve (SU0267). A score will be given, based on each species rarity, and then a yearly total is established. Highest yearly total, of all competitors, is the winner.

Now, when you compare my area with some of the other entrants, you can see that there is a high chance of coming last. I'm not going to be seeing many water birds; I'm not going to be seeing many waders; I'm not going to be seeing many sea birds; in fact I may not see anything particularly 'rare' at all. What I will be seeing is mainly farmland birds and birds of open country.

All the birds on the Farmland Bird Index are present, including tree sparrow, corn bunting and turtle dove. Then there will be species such as tree pipit, raven, stonechat, ring ouzel, redstart and cuckoo that turn up at various times. Raptors are in abundance; peregrine, merlin, hobby, red kite have all been seen. Owls; short-eared, barn, tawny. Then you have the 'hit the jackpot' types such as great grey shrike and dotterel. I'll be breaking out the bubbly if I see any of them though.

Have a look at 11. Marlborough Downs for a little more in-depth look at the wider area. The link takes you to the Wiltshire Ornithological Society website, which is well worth perusing.

As usual I will be uploading all my records to BirdTrack and WSBRC .

So, there you have it. Check out the Patchwork Challenge blog, to see what I'm up against (gulp). I will shortly be providing a map of my patch area. This shows the area around the reserve, from which I will make my patch of roughly 3 grid squares.


  1. As an infrequent visitor to Wiltshire (but one who loves getting out onto Pewsey Downs when I can), I'm going to be intrigued by what you find in 2013. Please keep the posts coming and good luck!

  2. Thank you for the comment. I do quite often stray onto the Pewsey Downs, another quite exquisite area of Wiltshire chalk grass. At Morgan's Hill we have Adonis Blue and Duke of Burgundy Fritillary butterflies and the only known downland population of Marsh Helleborine. Well worth a visit next time you are in the area during the summer months.


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