My Big Garden Birdwatch

by Adam Pasco

I've just enjoyed a relaxing hour, cup of tea in one hand, binoculars in the other, gazing out of the window at my garden, taking part in the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch.

Birds using feedersI've just enjoyed a relaxing hour, cup of tea in one hand, binoculars in the other, gazing out of the window at my garden. Yes, some plants are showing signs of growth, there's still bloom on my winter-flowering viburnum, and the squirrels are still active (don't get me started on them again). But this wasn't about inspecting the Pasco estate to make sure all was in order - I was taking part in the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch.

Just an hour. That's all they wanted from me to play my part in recording the feathered visitors to my garden. These had to be birds actually landing in my garden and not just flying over. And no cheating! Although I saw long-tailed tits in my garden last week, but not during my hour, I could NOT record them. Neither did the song thrush make an appearance, or the green woodpecker my wife saw pecking away at the lawn last autumn.

That's the thing about Big Garden Birdwatch. It's a snapshot of exactly which birds are around in January, and I was joining thousands of other people doing exactly the same thing. My son Luke joined me, taking the photo that accompanies this blog.

So, what did we see? A single collared dove sitting in my silver birch was joined by two others - two's company, but what were three up to? Sparrows flew to and fro from their home in a thicket of shrubs to the feeder, some waiting their turn as others fed. They were hard to count, but the most at any one time was eight; there were probably more. The tits came and went, blackbirds scurried around on the ground, and a robin put in a brief appearance in the bird bath. A flock of starlings descended onto the lawn, and I needed my binoculars to count them - at least 21, with a few making it to the peanut feeders too.

And the total bird count:

Blackbird: 2

Collared dove: 3

Robin: 1

Blue tit: 1

House sparrow: 8

Great tit: 1

Starling: 21

Woodpigeon: 3

This is the second year that the starling has come out at No.1 in my garden, but what about the rest of the country? From the RSPB's results last year the house sparrow was the most common bird, with starlings in second place, followed by blue tit, blackbird and chaffinch. The 2008 results will be published on the Big Garden Birdwatch website in March.

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Gardeners' World Web User 30/01/2008 at 19:13

I had a bit of a disappointing count this year - in the days leading up to it, I'd seen a pair of long-tailed tits, a pair of greenfinches, a house sparrow and lots of collared doves, but none of them turned up during my hour, plus I only saw 1 each of blue tit, coal tit and blackbird when there's normally 2 of them around. Even the starlings gave a poor showing - only 4, when I regularly see upwards of 6 or 7! Maybe they were scared of the large camera lens sticking through the sitting room curtains? Nothing dodgy, I just thought it might be a nice opportunity to get some good shots of my avian garden visitors :-) I did also see a robin (a regular, although I've seen 2 on occasion, but then one of them is usually chased away!), 2 wood pigeons (again a poor showing) and a dunnock.

Overall not bad, I suppose, considering my garden is rather small, but I had hoped for so much more ;-)

Gardeners' World Web User 31/01/2008 at 12:04

I took part for the first time. Managed about 15 different species, including a lone Fieldfare, a regular visitor to our apple tree. Only a lone blackbird and a single starling. Recorded 4 blue tits and 2 great tits but I'm sure this is an under estimate because of the comings and goings. Coming top were 12 jackdaws, flocks of which regularly descend upon the seed feeder, particularly picking up seeds falling on to the lawn, with 4 house sparrow joint second, and 3 very fat woodpigeons and 3 green finches in joint fourth place. Disappointed with only a single blackbird, starling and song thrush.

Gardeners' World Web User 01/02/2008 at 11:16

I'm sure birds know when there's a camera pointing in their direction! Any bird records are of value to the RSPB, so do log on to their website and post your results. It would be great to hear what other birds people spotted.

Gardeners' World Web User 01/02/2008 at 20:46

It would be a good idea to have a section for the birds that are normally present in the garden. This year very few made an appearance in the hour, but most were back by the next day! I only counted four sparrows, but there were at least a dozen the next day. The resident pair of blackbirds were hiding and at this time of year we often get a flock of a dozen long tailed tits for a few days, but not this year. Perhaps some of our neighbours had put out tastier snacks and counted them!

Gardeners' World Web User 03/02/2008 at 20:32

Starlings were top of my bird watch and strangely enough I also counted 21. I thought after last years terrible weather numbers would be down but they appear to be more or less the same. Its a fantastic hour though isn't it, just sitting counting birds. I don't often afford myself that luxury, too much to do!!!

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