Garden birds and my Big Garden Birdwatch

Posted: Thursday 27 January 2011
by Kate Bradbury

In spring a pair of great tits and a blue tit used my garden to snack on peanuts while foraging for their young. They were all gone by July...

Blackbird in grass, photo courtesy of the RSPBThis time last year I was bemoaning the lack of birds in my garden. There was little point in taking part in the RSPB's Big Garden Birdwatch, as the only feathered visitors to my plot were pigeons (although a robin, blackbird and a pair of grey wagtails visited during the coldest weather).

In spring a pair of great tits and a blue tit used my garden to snack on peanuts while foraging for their young. They were all gone by July and my garden was, once again, Pigeon City. In October there were still no birds, despite the sparkling clean feeders and expensive food I put out for them.

I'm pleased to report that this has all changed. What's more, my garden has become a battle ground. When the snow came in December, a robin and blackbird tentatively started visiting my plot. I put seed out for them which the pigeons couldn't reach (they had their own), and fashioned a snow-proof feeding station using an umbrella, which sheltered the birds and seed from snow. I left chopped apples in the borders. Everything was harmonious until Christmas, when my partner and I left for a week to visit family (making sure there was plenty of food for the birds in our absence).

When we returned, we saw that the blackbird had rather taken to the garden, and we soon noticed he had actually established it as 'his'. He now patrols it from dawn to dusk, scampering around eating apples, turning leaves and pecking the lawn for grubs. He’s not frightened of us, or anything, it seems, as he has started chasing off other birds which try to visit.

Sid the blackbird, photo taken by Julie WatsonThe pigeons are chased away, a blue tit darts in and out before it gets noticed, the robin has given up completely and a poor, female blackbird (who really should be attracting more attention from him at this time of year) is shooed off every time she dares to come in and share 'his' food. Even I was attacked while trying to spend a precious half hour in the garden last weekend. He repeatedly flew from one wall to the other, very close to my head, until I finally gave up and went inside. It seems This Garden Ain't Big Enough for the Both of Us.

I've done a little research on blackbird behaviour and it looks like our trouble-maker is barely a fledgling, a 'young gun' establishing a territory which will last his lifetime. I'm hoping he'll finally start being nice to the female and they'll choose to nest here. (Our lack of trees or hedges won't pose a problem for nesting blackbirds, apparently, as they will nest on the ground if conditions are suitable.)

The female has already started looking behind plant pots and at the back of the borders. She's much more inquisitive than the male, who is only interested in apples, turning leaves, pecking at soil and frightening birds. We've called them Sid and Nancy.

So I will be taking part in this year's Big Garden Birdwatch – from a safe distance. It might be quite dull, as most other birds have now found pastures new, but if anything dares encroach on Our Sid's territory, there will be quite a show.

The RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch 2011 takes place this weekend, from Saturday 29 to Sunday 30 January. To find out how to take part, visit

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Gardeners' World Web User 27/01/2011 at 17:20

I'm sure you meant to say Saturday 29th January and Sunday 30th January? According to my calendar Monday is the 31st January. Gremlins in the calendar or is it those pesky blackbirds?

Gardeners' World Web User 27/01/2011 at 18:13

Ha ha i laughed out loud reading this Kate, it reminds me so much of my own garden. I moved in to mine in august and have found not many birds visit. When i did start getting visitors last month a pair of magpies began to visit regularly. The male i watched with fascination as during the rain he collected up all the bits of bread i had left out and systematically hid them all around the garden, under leaves, stones, piecs of wood. I assume he came back later to collect them all and since he had hid everything no other bird could get a look in. what a wonderful past time to watch the birds.

Gardeners' World Web User 27/01/2011 at 20:55

This blog made me laugh out loud too. But instead i have a female blackbird who rules my garden.Even though i place food out on bird table she seems to turn her nose up at it and goes for the fat balls in the feeders. very funny watching her,i do believe blackbirds are suppose to be ground feeders!! I do have Two robins who like doing this too!They love to come up close and say hello, except when i get my camera out!

Gardeners' World Web User 27/01/2011 at 21:16

I'm having the same trouble you had last year Kate. Although, I think it's because we're being overrun by squirrels. Last year we had 1 squirrel, now we're getting upto 12 at any one time! The squirrels are attracting the local cat population, which is probably keeping the birds away. Even our trusty robins haven't made an appearance this winter.

Gardeners' World Web User 27/01/2011 at 21:22

sorry i dont understand reader 1....what on earth do you mean about the dates.......kate has wrote the dates that you have wrote....'is this a joke or what'????? nice read though kate..i to have a black bird thats appeared since the snow, daily he is in the garden eating everything i put out for the birds,also at the end of the garden my garden slightly curves and i have put up a mirror and growning over and around it is ivy and a climbing rose however you can still see the mirror,the blackbird is always looking at himselve in the mirror and flying at it well i guess i should say he attacks his reflection i think he thinks its another bird watching him...he moves his head up and down moves left/right but cant work out why the other bird does the same...i stand there watching for ages,it really is funny ......

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