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.