We do enjoy the RSPB Big Garden Bird watch. It can be quite an event in our house and this weekend it was no different. I had chief bird watcher in charge of the proceedings. My dad was also in charge of the pencil and check list… V.I.B.W. (Very Important Bird Watcher)
Things started slow, it was a milder afternoon than we had had in the past few days. There was still snow but the thaw was well under way. The feeders were filled to the brim of all manner of tasty treats to tempt our feathered friends.
“Dad! Two blackbirds… over there by the fence!!”
My enthusiasm was a little too much but my dad seemed to like it.
“ Yes, yes, I have got them down now… just two? Is that not a third one there?”
He points in a very general direction.
“No dad, that is the back of the other one behind the trunk.”
They left as quickly as they arrived, the noise could almost have been deafening if it wasn’t for good double glazing.
“The Sparrow hawk is coming.” Dad remained deadpan as he made the announcement.
“How do you know?”
He stayed straight-faced.
“The Blackbird told me…”
I nod… and quickly open up a new tab on the laptop and Google ‘Straight Jackets’.
I had barely got the S-T in and swooping down from above and landing squarely on the largest branch of the apple tree was the Sparrow Hawk! He searched the area with greedy-eyes and then flew back to the other tree on the other side of the garden. Settling, he continued his visual search and he must have seen something moving on the large tree over the fence and he was up and away so quickly. He glided straight over the fence of our garden and slap-bang into the net of the neighbours’ trampoline. I knew that thing had to have a good use as it never has any children on it! With not an ounce of dignity left he flapped a few times then he took his embarrassed self away from the tree and off into the distance he fled!
I turn to my dad seated next to me with a very smug look on his face.
The garden fell silent for the next few minutes as is usual after a sparrow hawk visit.
The brave arrived shortly after the hawk had left. Safety in numbers!
“5.. Tracey, 5 long tail tits.. 7! 7! There are two on that feeder…10! Count them Tracey!”
I concur! There was indeed ten Long tail Tits, as they took to each feeder, flitting from one to the next like busy little mice-birds..
The feathered flood gates then opened. It was a wonderful sight! A robin, little and fat and very proudly sticking out his red-breast was fluttering upwards in a very undignified manner as he tried to feed from the fatty cake in the square cages. Usually feeding from the ground, this was a strange thing to see. As he dangled and fluttered the tits came in, Coal tits – 2, Great tits, 2…3, Blue tit, 1… and so the count went on. The blackbirds, already counted arrived, the second Robin arrived and was very quickly seen-off just as we checked another ‘I’ on the checklist. As quickly as they arrived they left and the garden fell silent.
“Rabbit!” dad has his wiggly finger out again aiming it to the bottom of the garden.
“It’s a bird watch Dad.” Seems I should point it out.
“I wonder were the squirrels are today?” He seemed undeterred by my mention of the animals not being allowed.
As we sipped on our hot coffee and chatted dad spotted the newest visitors. I was not so sure about the ‘Safety in numbers’ statement for these chaps but one after the other the Wood pigeons arrived. We live opposite a very large farmer’s field so we are used to the arrival of these guys in large numbers. Very early on a morning is the best time to catch them all. I have had up to thirty in at one time. (Approximately!) This time was a rather lesser number of 8. Impressive for our list though. Dad marked them all on the list and as he added the last strike for 8, number 9,10 and 11 settled at the lower part of the garden.
Other birds arrived and departed over the hour, we made sure we didn’t do any false accounting and we had an impressive list by 3pm.
The only notable no-show was the Woodpecker. We had visits from the Jays, two of them. The mystery bird we had two of we think they were young male blackbirds… I wanted them to be Field Fare but I think that would be false accounting.
All in all it was a very enjoyable hour spent appreciating and getting swept up in the excitement of the Big Garden Bird Watch.