In various iterations the patch birding or radius type challenge has been around for awhile, I think originating with the ‘slightly’ overly complex Patchwork Challenge, in the UK. 

I never really played it because it required you to be in the UK obviously (which I hardly ever was), and there were so many score variations; do you live inland or coastal, separate parts of the country divided up, rarities scored different points somewhat arbitrarily depending on self-found vs twitched, and where they turned up.

So kudos to Jen Sanford for taking the initiative and getting the birding community behind a simpler one: The 5MR. A simple 5 mile radius from your home.

I’ve done this before - just for my own interest, rather than competitively (but I used kilometres so...... ;)

This original 5 mile circle got me 249 species over around 6 years - covering some of the finest toxic post-industrial wastelands of New Jersey and the southern part of Central Park through to lower Manhattan. And the Hudson River of course, which provided some megas - Cave Swallow being the best - somehow I got both the first and second county record of that. Go figure.

Here my 6 yr old daughter is helping with some gulling outside our apartment. Slight trespassing required ;)

Skip forward a year and I am now back in the UK and it’s going to be a whole different ball game. I’m not going to get 25 species of neotropical warbler streaming past the window. But it is good for me for several reasons; I can see at least 5 miles from my house windows, I have a load of different habitats on my ranch, I'm in the middle of a National Park, and I can’t drive at the moment anyway because of injury.

The north of the UK is rather like my old home in Patagonia. At over 54° either north or south, your field guide doesn’t get to passerines until the last third of the book ;) 

To put into perspective: here's 54 south and 54 north....

That said, I’m about 45% of the state for January, two owls up, and essentially just missing waterbodies, reservoirs etc... 

Here’s a few pics. You’ll notice a common theme. Snow. It’s like the Midwest here this year.... ;)


In Darwin's Footsteps

2009 is the year of Charles Darwin. Not only is it the anniversary of his birth but also that of the publication of On the Origin of Species, 50 years later.

In collaboration with Manchester Museum and University, Ben is exhibiting a wonderful collection of images from one of our 2009 trips to Tierra del Fuego and Patagonia, retracing the steps Darwin took. Dominic has taken many clients on hunts for Darwin’s past, and the ethnological history of the Beagle Channel region is a particular interest of his, so it’s great to bring it all together in the amazing Victorian buildings of Manchester University.

What Darwin and Fitz Roy saw as they entered the Beagle Channel and took respite from the storms of the Marie Strait and the circumpolar winds of the Southern Ocean.

Chilean Flamingos surprised Darwin just as they surprise people today.

The realm of The Beagle. A black browed albatross in the fjord that ultimately bore Darwin's name, Seno Darwin.

A Chilean skua patrols the waters before the sharp outline of Mount Olivia. In many of the paintings by The Beagle's artist, Conrad Martens, variations on Mount Olivia's outline appear as symbolic testament to the wildness of Tierra del Fuego...

Midsummer snows. One of the most exciting things about visiting Tierra del Fuego is that you simply don't know from one day to the next whether you'll be sauntering in the sunshine and getting a tan, or braving the snow and katabatic winds.

After its extended run in Manchester, the exhibition of around 25 imags is now available for hire.
Drop Ben (or me) an email if you would like some information.

More of the shots can be viewed on the galleries at www.Benhallphotography.com

My photo
I work in NYC and own a wildlife and wilderness agency specializing in the southern cone of South America. I still do some guiding down there, especially looking for Fuegian and Patagonian avifauna. I'm particularly interested in the wintering ecology of neotropical migrants, and in avian biogeography in general. You can follow me at - @domhall And find me at - AventuraArgentina.com