Sunday, 25 January 2015

Jan 24th & 25th Big Garden Birdwatch Special

Day 1

This Saturday morning, I opened the curtains to my bedroom window to find a buzzard soaring outside, mobbed by two crows. It was low enough to see it's wing markings. This was a surprising bird to see here in a built up urban area and this close to my flat. What a sight to wake up to! And on a special weekend too. This weekend is the Big Garden Bird Watch Weekend, a survey organized by the RSPB to find out how many birds are in your garden.

Anyone can take part and you don't have to have a garden. As I live in a flat, I don't have a garden, but I do have a local park I can do the survey in. I'm at Waterloo Park this morning for an hours walk. I'm not willing to sit in the cold for an hour, so I'm walking around the park instead. I'm sticking to the rules that I made, though. I'm not counting flying birds or birds outside the park's boundaries and to keep it so I'm not counting the same bird twice, I'm counting a total of birds of each species at a single moment (for example, I see one blue tit, I can't count another until I see two together and so on).

Within my hour (from 9:15-10:15am), I recorded; 3 robins, 4 blue tits, 5 blackbirds, 3 great tits, 3 chaffinches, 3 long-tailed tits, 2 collard doves, 2 dunnocks, 1 greenfinch, 2 goldfinches, 1 carrion crow and 1 coal tit. The most numerous, though, and unsurprisingly, is the woodpigeon with seven. My personal favourites from this hour were 2 goldcrests in the spruces. There were actually more tits, woodpigeons, etc, but as I was counting the maximum total at one time, I couldn't count them all. I couldn't include the 5 greylags that flew over the park either and the starlings and house sparrows were just beyond the boundaries, so it is a no to them too. But what I can say is that this park is reasonably healthy in bird life compared to last year's survey which lacked half the species I recorded this year.

Day 2

I am not finished with the Big Garden Bird Watch quite yet. Even though I have done the survey for myself, I am now in demand amongst my family to help with theirs. First up, I'm at my parent's house. Watching their garden from their consevatory, I began the hour from 10:05am. The feeder area attracted within the hour; 1 robin, 2 dunnocks, 2 blue tits and a single blackbird with a white leucistic spot on it's neck. The dunnocks were pretty photogenic, posing on a fence beam or on top of a hedge singing or feeding on the fat balls. There were woodpigeons in the tree nextdoor, but they would not come down to our garden throughout the hour.

Male Blackcap
Best of the lot in my survey of my parents garden, though, was a male and female blackcap. It was the first time I have ever tallied blackcaps in the Big Garden Bird Watch from all the years I have took part in it. They were a real surprise. Blackcaps are normally summer visitors that feed on insects and migrate south to Africa, but in recent years, birds from Germany and Austria come to overwinter here in the UK. They are also partial to fruit and seeds, so they can survive in our mild winters. Wintering blackcaps often rely on our gardens and our feeders, so I shouldn't really be surprised at all. Males have the black caps and females have orange ones. Keep an eye out for these birds in your garden this winter.

After completing the survey for my mum, we head over to my Aunt Barbara's house to help her out. Barbara has only done the survey twice in her garden (thats two years) and we have little success with it here. The first year, we saw nothing at all, while last year was a little better with 2 starlings. This year was even better with 2 robins and 2 woodpigeons. I have to say this, though, there were more birds in the area. Within the hour, I saw greenfinches, jackdaws, carrion crows, collard doves and heard starlings and dunnocks. The problem though is that they were all nextdoor and teased me by being tantalizingly close to the boundaries of Barbara's garden or flying low over it. Sometimes nature likes to rub it in!

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