Wool, Wiltshire and All Manner of Wonderful Things!

Great British Bird Watch.

Like many of us Brits I topped up the bird feeders and sat back for an hour this weekend and watched paper and pen in hand , counting birds who stopped by. I have a feeling that only in the UK are we slightly peculiar enough to do such a thing.

Counting birds for an hour across the country on the same weekend helps the RSPB estimate how well the various species of birds are doing year on year and provides information on our general environment. Starlings and sparrows have declined in numbers over the years since I was little. I didn’t see a single starling , whereas when I was a child they dominated the bird feeders. And as I lived then within 1 minutes walk from here, something has clearly happened.

It’s also odd that come the Spring the hedge in our garden is full of nesting starlings, so where are they going in the winter now?

I am pleased though that the same hedge is a brilliant habitat for the sparrows. I had trouble counting this year because we have a lot and they fly off within in seconds. I got to nine on several occasions but think there were more, I just couldn’t keep track of them from feeder to hedge to tree to ground to feeder to hedge.

I had 6 blackbirds in my hour, but I know that there are 8 hereabouts, but the other two must have been in some other garden. Fred my lovely blackbird with the white feathers is still very much with us.

This picture was taken last May. He first appeared in 2016, then a feisty bird who would challenge all the other male blackbirds in the garden . Last year he had clearly matured, he had his nest in the ivy behind the lilac tree and just got on with raising I think a female chick, who may have inherited a few white feathers of her own. He is more subdued now and has retreated to life near the hedges and is avoiding the younger males. Hopefully he will be with us through 2018. Having a very distinctive bird in the garden has provided me with hours of entertainment as well as let me see the behaviour of an individual bird.

As to the rest, the pigeons have cause me the greatest complexity of identification. For the first time we have got feral pigeons in the garden, and less wood pigeons. I spent a long time looking at my bird books and realised that one was actually a stock dove and not a pigeon at all. And we have three very odd looking pigeons who are white with black feathers and I can only conclude that somewhere  the white doves or maybe even racing pigeons have mated with the feral pigeons. Anyway I counted them as feral pigeons as clearly they aren’t anything else.

We have two resident robins but only one turned up. The long-tailed tit also failed to put in an appearance.

But it was an enjoyable experience, and I hope all our findings help the RSPB and the bird populations as a whole.

Comments on: "Great British Bird Watch." (31)

  1. This year was our second time participating in the BGB, we had a nice selection of birds including 4 long tailed tits, we hadn’t seen them here before. You blogging about this made me apply for a pack!

  2. Okay, so I see a few comments on In the US…I’m in Florida…and as far as I know we don’t have anything like this Nationally. However! I think it’s a brilliant idea and it’s given me a thought on how to help raise my child to be more observant and knowledgeable of the animals around him. I now understand why so many of the UK shows I watch are very capable of telling you about what type of bird did what…we barely can tell the difference between a crow and a raven here!

    I think that when my son is a bit older and able to sit a little more still, we’ll start making something like this a tradition of ours. Pick a nice day that’s every year, set up the bird feeder, and watch and count.

    Thank you for sharing!

  3. hawthorn-livelovecraft said:

    our regulars also avoided us during the count – almost a token crew – I attribute that to the weather. But in the long run, we no longer get sparrows in the droves as we used to and starlings are definitely in reduced numbers. Still, without doing this peculiarly British thing, we’d not know about numbers up or down 🙂

    • It is important tp know how the birds survived each winter I agree. I did the count one year when it rained the whole time and it really was a washout, I think I had about two pigeons only that year. This time it was grey and dreary. If it snows then the bird feeders are buzzing.

  4. It’s a very British thing. I think! I’m not sure the average American could recognize and name more than 3-4 birds. Like Tialys, we have outdoor cats so we need to be very careful about not encouraging birds to hang around our yard. Our cats are altogether too adept at catching them . . .

    • I sit by the window with my quick guide to birds, and spend ages wondering if something has a black head/ what shaped beak etc. Naughty cats Kerry, at least the ones around us are inept in the bird catching department.

  5. Thanks so much for explaining what you do each year and why.
    I think its a lovely project!

  6. Murtagh's Meadow said:

    Our Birdwatch Ireland do a similar survey but we record from Nov till Feb., giving a maximum count perfect week. We haven’t been good this year in keeping our records so i must try and rectify that for Feb! You have a great number of house sparrows which is great to see.

    • The big hedge at the bottom of the garden is their breeding ground and the starlings join them there. the noise from there when the babies start to fledge is deafening. The starlings are hilarious when they try their first flights crash landing in the branches and then the parents can’t find their offspring because they have moved and make a racket. I tend to spend a lot of my gardening time just being entertained by them.
      Good luck next month with the bird count.

  7. I have so many cats that I feel guilty about the bird life so I have a bird table at the front of the house on the first floor balcony where they are safe. My favourite birds are blackbirds but I always worry because they nest within easy reach of predators (i.e. cats). We get lots of blue tits, great tits and greenfinches on the bird table and nuthatches who I love to watch cracking open the sunflower seeds on the roof of the table. It’s a relaxing pastime.

    • Oh yes the cats! When we had a dog this was a cat free zone. He took his cat keeping away duties very seriously. It’s now nine years since I lost him and now all the cats in the neighbour hood are vying to make our garden their territory. There is many a face off between them yowling and spating with each other. Fortunatly they are all hopeless bird getters, I see them in the undergroth but they are all far too noisy! I can almost see the sparrows mocking them from the hedge!

  8. I think it is such a good thing to do! It’s not done here. My daughter has three feeders in her courtyard garden and we can spend hours watching what is going on out there. I also notice she has zero bugs on her plants! A few weeks ago we were treated to the sight of a magpie sitting on the wall watching all the little birds feeding and hopping about on the ground. He looked enormous beside all the sparrows and wrens and finches – and even the starlings and thrushes! It made us aware we don’t see many magpies any more!

    • Oh how lovely to see all those birds. I certainly have self interest in mind too as the birds do keep the bugs at bay here. As do our frogs. So lovely to share our space with birds and animals.

  9. The birds in our backyard provide a lot of entertainment. We have sparrows, blue jays, starlings, a blackbird or two; robins and some neon yellow finch? in the spring time, along with doves and pigeons. The biggest adventure was the time a blue jay mis stepped and blew the transformer out on the power pole, and plunged the entire neighborhood into darkness for a day! UFDA!!

  10. John and I love to watch the birds too. We have a bird feeder outside of our dining room and we often sit and watch all of them. We love seeing the cardinal family and the morning doves feed all year round. 🙂 Thank you for sharing. Hugs, Tamara

  11. In the US, we have a yearly program called the Christmas Bird Count. For one weekend, birders gather in their local areas and count as many types of birds as they can. The information is sent in and the data gathered. We also have a “feeder count” program that runs from November through April. My kids and I did this for years until they were grown and too busy. Our daughter has actually followed her love of birding and is now a biologist specializing in field research of birds. She is in grad school now, but for the last few summers has spent her days in the field with birds.

    • What excellent ideas. The birds are good indicators about our environment. How terrific that your daughter is a biologist specialising in birds. I bet you were her first inspiration.

  12. Hadn’t heard about this, not that I would have got many birds. Seen the odd magpie on a roof lately!

  13. I love how you’re so closely in touch with your local bird population, and have old friends whose doings you’re well aware of! We have the Aussie Backyard Birdwatch, so the madness has obviously spread Down Under from the old country….

  14. What a wonderful thing to so! We have had two generations on blackbirds now brought up on cat biscuits – our ‘old-and-slow’ cat eats on our verandah, and Mama Blackbird, then presumably her daughter, has brought the little ones down to eat. We expect them to chirp “Miaow” any day now!

  15. Unfortunately we were in the city for the weekend so I didn’t participate. Otherwise our two resident Robins would definitely be on the list as they seem to be there every time I look out of the window. It would have been nice to include one of our two buzzards who frequent the field behind, or the kestrels that are seen constantly swooping for mice. I used to get paranoid when the buzzards were circling overhead if Fifi was in the garden – she was smaller than the rabbits they sometimes took and I was always worried that she might be taken one day!

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