It’s a damp day at the end of January and the birds are eluding you as always, casually perching in the hedge in next door’s garden. It can only mean one thing – The RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch.
I dash out in the cold morning air with no coat, very brave I know, to restock the bird table, with a generous amount of bird seed, and quickly go inside again. A while later, giving time for the birds to recover from my intrusion of serving them up their brunch, pen, paper, binoculars and a cup of tea in hand I’m set, it’s time to start counting. Fifteen minutes in, one squirrel, wait no two squirrels and one coal tit. The coal tit darts back and forth from the feeder to the tree, the flash of white on its head clearly visible as it goes about its day – oblivious that it is currently the star of the show being the only bird on my list. Before long though a blue tit appears and perches in the small tree before launching itself towards the feeder.
After a little while my two garden birds have disappeared and it is quiet. That is of course except for the two grey squirrels that are munching away happily. They hoover up all the seed that has been spilt from the feeders before moving onto the bird table. One of them has developed a habit of climbing up the shorter bird feeder stand, balancing on the middle, then reaching out, holding the part of the bird feeder where the birds perch with one paw and reaching in to extract seed with the other. Not everyone likes squirrels but they are full of character, and good companions during the birdwatch.
Ah there they are. The robin gracefully flies to the small tree and begins to sing while the blackbird dashes into the pine tree. That’s another two of my usual visitors, but I am still waiting for the daily visit from the ‘cockney’ characters. More time watching the squirrels, they are my constant companions at the moment. That was until one unexpectedly started to chase the other and they bounced in the air, at which point my dog jumped up at the window squealing in excitement, but they (including the dog), soon calmed down and the squirrels went back to feeding.
All of a sudden there was a bustle of activity and there they were. The lovely group of house sparrows that frequent the garden had arrived. You can tell when they are about by their cheerful chirping, and then they like to rest in the small tree before flying to the feeders. This time though, as it was the designated survey hour, they decided to perch in the hedge in next doors garden. I could see them all flitting about over the fence, it was like they knew I was waiting for them – despite me and my dog being hidden inside the house where they couldn’t see us. Alas in the end I only managed to record four in the garden at once.
During the whole kerfuffle of ‘will they or won’t they fly into my garden’, two blackbirds flew into the garden, touched down for about half a second, then flew of again. Then a small brown bird sneakily popped out from the edge of the flowerbed, and another, the dunnocks. They too were trying to hide from me it seemed.
The time was nearly up and a woodpigeon flew in. That was my final bird – meaning I had recorded blue tits, a coal tit, a robin, blackbirds, house sparrows, dunnocks and a woodpigeon. None of the usual great tits, collared doves, magpies, visiting long-tailed tits or just the usual number of birds I see in the garden. In the end though that didn’t matter as it was a relaxing hour, away from the hustle and bustle of the world, reminding me why I love garden birds so much. Plus as my lecturer always used to say the negative results are just as important as the positive. But it does make you wonder – how do the birds know it’s your Big Garden Birdwatch survey hour?