Every year the RSPB asks people to register and spend an hour counting the number of birds visiting their garden. The idea is to submit the largest number seen at any one time, not the total seen over the hour, because obviously there could be repeat visitors. I’ve never done it before but thought this year I’d give it a go, especially as we seem to have a good variety of visitors these days and just for my own interest I wanted to spend some time seeing how the birds behave. Some things were already apparent – for example, the smaller birds dart into the hedge next to the feeder and pick their moment before coming out to feed. We know there are some regulars, and some who pop by less frequently. As it was one of our main aims with this garden to encourage wildlife, doing something like this is a good way to keep tabs on how that’s working out.
This morning was sunny, to begin with at least, so after breakfast I topped up the feeder as usual then settled down to watch. Before my hour started I’d been aware of a lot of birds hanging around in the trees surrounding the garden, and we’d had brief visits from the robin, Mrs Blackbird and the pair of house sparrows, so I knew they were all up and about and waiting for their breakfast. As I was putting mealworms out, there was a starling on our tv aerial chattering away.
To begin with it was quiet, Mrs B popped in and so did a woodpigeon, and then we had a little flurry of visits from starlings and Mr B. As I was sitting watching, I could see lots of activity in the trees around the edges of the garden, with smaller birds coming and going, including a great tit, but whether they were steering clear of the bigger birds or there were better pickings elsewhere I don’t know. Mr B spent a lot of time over the whole hour perched in the hedge at the end of our garden, apparently surveying his territory. At one point he was there keeping an eye, while in neighbouring trees there was a woodpigeon and a crow, presumably doing likewise. Even from inside the house I could hear lots of varied birdsong, though I couldn’t see who was responsible.
After a lull of about a quarter of an hour, during which I could see a lot of small birds in trees or flying over, something darted across into the hedge. After a moment, the robin emerged onto the mealworm tray, snaffled a mealworm then scarpered. He was followed by Mr B and a couple of starlings, who were then joined by a few more starlings and a woodpigeon. Then to my surprise more and more starlings started appearing, such that I was having trouble counting them. My confirmed total all present at the same time was 13 in the end, though there were probably more. While all this was going on the house sparrows were trying to get a look-in. Finally something startled the pigeon and they all took off.
By now I had about 15 or 20 minutes left and it was mostly quiet again. A pair of magpies flew over and perched on a tree branch overhanging the garden, but as it’s not our tree I didn’t count them. Then, pleasingly, the dunnock put in an appearance and stayed for several minutes, and with only a couple of minutes left, a great tit flew down, perched in a shrub very briefly, and flew off again.
So all in all a good result. Both blackbirds were around at the same time (albeit briefly) and most of our regulars turned up. It was my intention to submit my totals online but at the moment there are issues with the webpage, so I’ll try again later – and if it still isn’t working I can send them in by post.
Did any of you do the birdwatch? Or are you doing it tomorrow, perhaps? I’d love to know how it goes!