Big Garden Bird Watch 2020

Sunday 26th January

A group of keen citizen scientists gathered on a rather unpromising grey Sunday afternoon to count as many birds as we could see in the garden and surrounding trees. It was the Big Garden Bird Watch weekend and we were all keen to see what birds are around in the garden at this time of year. It didn’t matter whether we were experienced bird watchers, young or old it is the taking part which is fun but also contributes to a huge national database on garden birds.

We were all ready with our binoculars and bird books. The hour passed surprisingly quickly and many pairs of eyes proved very useful in spotting some of the smaller birds. We started with two woodpigeons but soon saw robins and blackbirds coming to eat the mealworms on the bird tables. They were followed by a coal tit and a pair of blue tits on the fat balls and then picking insects from some of the mature trees.

We were watching a group of starlings perched on an older tree at the tennis club end of the garden and they slowly grew in numbers towards the end of the afternoon as the light was fading a little. Starlings generally roost in flocks that are called murmurations when they are very large (often containing thousands of birds). They are a bird we often see in gardens and parkland but despite most people thinking of them as a common bird their numbers have declined by 66% since the 1970’s. Consequently they are on the BTO (British Trust for Ornithology) red list meaning they are a bird of high conservation concern.

There is more information about conservation status of birds on the RSPB website if you want to read more.

There were many oohs of delight as we spotted a small flock of long tail tits at the end of the garden and they then came and fed from the lovely pinecone birdfeeders that Ali had been making with visiting groups. Long-tailed tits often travel round in small flocks of up to 20 birds in the winter, consisting of parents and offspring from the previous year and other family members. We saw 6 birds but they were only in the garden for a few minutes.

Our last interesting sighting was a pair of bullfinches (male and female) pecking at buds on the trees. The males red chest shone beautifully in the late afternoon light, beautiful birds.

Whilst we were watching it was interesting to reminisce about differences in the results from the previous years (here are post about 2017 and 2018 birdwatch). One bird definitely missing was a dunnock. We saw them in the brambles on the far side of the stream in 2018 but, sadly, because that scrub was removed, the habitat that they require isn’t there anymore. However, brambles are likely to grow back so it will be interesting to see if they return in the summer.

In all, despite our worries that the grey, cold and wintry weather might put the birds off visiting the garden, we saw a delightful selection of birds (see the infographic below for the numbers). Well done to everyone who came along and participated. You have contributed to one of the biggest citizen science programmes in the world!

If you missed the birdwatch but would like to help wildlife in your garden, have a look at the RSPB website here and you will find information on how to get a free 28 page guide about encouraging wildlife in your garden. Now is the time to put up bird boxes or clean out your old ones.

Happy nature spotting!

(Thanks to Richard Tough for letting us use his lovely bird snaps to illustrate)

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