Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Big Garden Birdwatch

Along with many others in the UK, I spent an enjoyable hour over the weekend watching the birds and making a note of the most numbers of each species seen at any one time as my contribution to the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch. I couldn't help thinking that if it had been a couple of weeks ago when the whole country was blanketed in snow I would have been able to record some really interesting visitors but of course I realise that wouldn't have been a true representation of my 'usual' sightings.

I was quite surprised not to see a Dunnock which I normally see quite often and there were no Great or Coal Tits either which was rather disappointing although I didn't find it as easy as I should even with binoculars due to my ongoing sight problem which I mentioned in a previous post. I have been told, by the way, that I will be having 'ordinary' surgery and not laser surgery as I was at first led to believe, the first eye will be done at the end of April and the other later in the year. Anyway, back to the birds! My results are as follows:

  1. Blackbird 8
  2. Blackcap 2
  3. Blue Tit 1
  4. Chaffinch 5
  5. Collared Dove 5 (Pictured above)
  6. Goldfinch 2
  7. Greenfinch 10
  8. House Sparrow 3 (The House Sparrow is on the red list of endangered species)
  9. Long-tailed Tit 1
  10. Robin 1
  11. Starling 4 (The Starling is on the red list of endangered species)
  12. Stock Dove 1 (The Stock Dove is on the amber list of endangered species)
  13. Wood Pigeon 3
I was very pleased to be able to include both the male and female Blackcap as although I knew the female had been around she had been very elusive unlike the last two Winters when the female was more evident than the male. The Stock Dove was a huge surprise and I only noticed it at the last moment having previously thought it was a Woodpigeon.

I am having difficulties taking photos (for obvious reasons and expect I will continue to, until at least early Summer), at the moment so the following representations of what I saw during my count were all taken by me in my garden but not necessarily during the weekend birdwatch. The exceptions are the House Sparrow and the poor record shot of the Stock Dove both taken during the count and through glass.

So, in alphabetical order:


'I value my garden more for being full of blackbirds than of cherries,
and very frankly give them fruit for their songs.'
(Joseph Addison}

This photo of a female Blackcap is not too good as it was at the farthest end of the garden. I do love her chestnut coloured cap and I always think she looks less fierce than Mr Blackcap who I featured on my last post.

Female Blackcap

Blue Tit


'It glanc'd fleet before me!----
Was't a meteor that fled,
With bright dappl'd pinnions,
And gorget of red?
Nay, nay 'twas the chaffinch;
And "twink! twink!" he cries,
As he darts through the hedgerow,
With fear and surprise.'
(Thomas Gillet)

Collared Dove


The Goldfinch has for some time been the bird which visits my garden the most and in large numbers, but recently, the Greenfinches have become quite intimidating at the feeders and frequently scare the Goldfinches away!


'At the distinctive song of the greenfinch old memories awake
That voice I first heard as a young boy I never could mistake
It stirs up memories of the northern Spring and the leafy woods of May
And it has followed me across the World from places far away.'
(Francis Duggan)

House Sparrow

Long-tailed Tit


'The robin, tamest of the feathered race
Soon as he hears the woodmans sounding chops
Wi ruddy bosom and a simple face
Around his old companions feet he hops
And there for hours in pleased attention stops'
(John Clare)


I really hope I've got the following ID right, I'm pretty sure it isn't a feral Pigeon as it doesn't have the correct bars on the wings. As I mentioned before, this photo was taken in a rush, with poor eyesight and through glass!

Stock Dove (I hope)

Wood Pigeon

Well, that's it for the 'Big Garden Birdwatch' for another twelve months, it will be interesting in a few weeks time, when the results have been collated, to see which birds are being seen most often in other people's gardens.


  1. Lovely post. I say, yes! it is a Stock Dove, I have never seen one myself only from other people's pictures. The good thing about following other birdy blogs is that you do get to learn the different species of birds.

  2. A nice post. Lovely images. The Goldfinch and C Doves are my favourites. Good luck with the eye surgery.

  3. Hi Jan .

    Nice collection of photographs and verse as is normal with your posts.
    The Garden Watch was interesting. We have not seen a Greenfinch all year. Collared Doves have vanished and Woodpigeon are definitely down in numbers. On the plus side we have a daily visit from the female Blackcap...the male is more elusive. The Goldcrest was seen after the bad weather but has not been seen since the 11th January whereas the Firecrest is regularly patrolling the fringes. Robins, Coal Tits and Goldfinches all number three and the Robins are often all together.Starlings, House Sparrow, Blackbirds and Dunnock are plentiful and we do have a Jay pop in now and again.

    Hope all goes well with your eyes.

  4. Nice post with beautiful photos.

  5. My goodness, you are able to enjoy some beautifully-colored birds (almost all of which we do not have)! Thank you for sharing your photos. You must have had a great day!

  6. Very nice photos Jan! I would never believe that the Starling would be on any endangered list...ha ha . There are way too many over here. And House Sparrows seem to be in abundance here also. I've never seen any of your other birds. They look different than ours.
    Hope everything will be okay for you soon. Big Hug!!

  7. Hi Jan,

    Lovely post from the Big Garden Birdwatch, well done on the photos they are very good. Bet there will be some strange birds popping into the uk birdwatch results.


  8. ShySongbird ,
    Carol did our watch and got about the same number of species , but not your Blackcaps as all the Callicarpa berries are gone now , and so have they .
    Enjoyed the photos , and would say yes too to the Stock Dove .

  9. Great post Jan, and a good list of birds for the day. A few people have mentioned an unusual lack of Great Tits over that weekend. Maybe the birds are having some fun with us lol

    Good luck with the surgery in April.

  10. Lovely post Jan, beautifully illustrated. I think this year's Winter count may throw up some surprises as quite a few people have had some of their regulars missing during their chosen hour. Fingers crossed for you for April.

  11. Lynmiranda

    Thank you very much, it really was lucky I spotted it as I had automatically assumed it was a Woodpigeon, I am wondering now if it has visited before without me realising!


    Thank you Angie, I will be glad to get the surgery over and done with now.

    The Abbot

    Thank you very much for your kind words Trevor. I think all your Greenfinches and Collared Doves must have decamped to my garden!
    If I was to see a Goldcrest or a Jay in my garden I would be thrilled and as for a Firecrest...I would think I was imagining it :)

  12. You have a great selection of birds. You should be proud of encouraging such a variety.

  13. Wow you got a very nice set of pictures from your garden. It is funny to see that starlings are on the endangered list. You should come over here, we have them by thousands. The house sparrow is beautiful!

  14. Hi Jan Great pics from your Garden Birdwatch, the Blackcap and the first pic of the two Collared Doves are great. Thats a good count you had on the day, I managed a dozen species which was poor, when the hour was over I had Great Tit Coal Tit Long Tailed Tit and Dunnock. Sould have left my count a bit later, will try to remember next year.

  15. I wonder if the birds that visit change over time. We have certainly seen many changes since we moved in ten years ago. Greenfinches and sparrows were the most common back then, but now we see few greenfinches. We don't see many starlings in the garden as a rule, but in the Autumn they will flock in the hundreds in the hedge at the side of our house - I'll miss them when we move. We never see coal tits any more, but there are certainly more blackbirds, and the robins have never left us. I've loved reading about the garden birdwatch on people's blogs. Your pictures are fantastic, and lucky you spotting a stock dove!
    Best wishes

  16. Stock Dove Jan, amazing. I have never seen one.

    I did the bird count and was a little sad to see that house sparrow and starling numbers were lower than last year.
    Blue tits, gold finch, robin and chaffinch numbers were up.

    Love the photographs....I find it really interesting to see the birds that frequent others garden.

    Hope you are keeping well Jan

  17. Lovely shots! And how lucky you are to get so many different species in your garden. Where I live it's a bit suburban and my list for the Big Garden Birdwatch was relatively short...
    Lovely shot of the ruffled Collared Dove. And congrats on the Stock Dove! I've never seen one...

  18. You saw some great birds for the garden watch. Great to get the Blackcaps too, I had a male in my garden just after Christmas 2008 but he's never made it back again!

  19. Razboynik

    Thank you very much :)

    Shady Gardener

    Thank you, yes it was very enjoyable. I think it is always nice to see the birds which other people see in their gardens and I know there are some very colourful ones where you live.


    Thank you Ginny :) A few years ago I would never have believed the Starling would be in decline here either and we do still see plenty of them but not in the numbers we once did.
    I hope things are still improving for you, I continue to keep you in my thoughts.


    Thank you John, yes, it will be interesting to see the results, I am looking forward to it!


    Thank you Greenie and for your confirmation of the Stock Dove. I find the Blackcaps in my garden enjoy the sunflower hearts and sometimes the fat treats.


    Thank you very much and for your good wishes, I'm so glad you were able to visit and hope things are improving for you.
    I'm sure some of the 'usual' birds were hiding until the hour was up :)
    Take care Keith, look after yourself.

    Midmarsh John

    Thank you very much John :) I think the bush (pun intended!) telegraph went round that it was big birdwatch day and many of them went into hiding to thwart us! Thank you also for your good wishes.

  20. 13 species in an hour is good going Songbird, and a Blackcap amongst them!

    The Stock dove ID is a cert.

  21. Hi Jan,

    Lovely photos and I have to agree I think you have a stock dove as the black eyes a good indication...

  22. Roses and Lilacs

    Thank you very much Marnie, regular feeding does pay off and I am well rewarded :)

    Thank you very much Chris. We do still see a lot of Starlings but their numbers have been in decline for some years here although when they suddenly visit the garden in a large squabbling gang it is difficult to believe it!


    Thank you very much Monty, I think you are right that it depends a lot on the time of day when the count is carried out. I have noticed larger numbers of Goldfinch since I did mine and also a flock of LTTs rather than the solitary one I recorded.

  23. We are having a similar bird watch here in the U.S. next weekend, I believe. I don't know if I'll participate because I'm not very good at identifying all the birds, but it would be fun. We've just received another blanket of snow, and if it sticks around, there should be plenty of birds at my feeders to count.

    So interesting to see all the different birds in your neighborhood, Songbird--such a variety! But what's most interesting to me is how different they are than our American birds. The goldfinch and robin, in particular look quite different from ours. The blue tit reminds me our chickadees, but again with my lack of knowledge, they may be completely different birds.

    Your photos are wonderful, as always, even with your problems with your eyesight. I do hope the surgery goes well for you so that you can see all your "friends" more clearly very soon!

  24. Dan

    Thank you very much, we too have seen changes in the visitors to our garden over the years. The most common bird by far used to be the House Sparrow but now they are very few and far between and the Starlings are not as prolific as they used to be but of course that all ties up with both birds being on the endangered list, it will be interesting to see the results of the birdwatch and if things have changed much from last year.
    Yes I was pleased to see the Stock Dove, I just wander how many times before I may have mistaken it for a Wood Pigeon!


    Thank you Cheryl, yes I was very pleased with the Stock Dove. Unfortunately I can't find my results for last year which is a nuisance as I can't compare the two! Yes I agree, it is nice to find out what people in different areas see in their gardens.
    I do hope you enjoy your break :)

    Estelle Kensdale

    Thank you very much. I suppose you would call where we live a little suburban too although it never used to be, we used to look out of our back window and see cows grazing but sadly all the land has been built on now.

  25. Pam

    Thank you, yes I was thrilled that the female Blackcap showed up too as she has been quite elusive.

    Warren Baker

    Thanks very much Warren and for the definite ID confirmation. Yes, I would have been disappointed if the Blackcaps hadn't shown up and the elusive Mrs Blackcap was right on cue!


    Thank you very much, I am hoping to see the Stock Dove again, I shall be more careful, in future, not to just assume I am looking at Wood Pigeons!

  26. jan,

    so great to keep a watch on so many wonderful bird friends and some very nice captures.

  27. Very lovely birds. Simply beautiful

  28. Rose

    Thank you very much. I'm sure you would enjoy taking part in your birdwatch if you can, perhaps you have a good book you could keep beside you to refer to for ID?
    The differences in our birds always fascinates me too. Our Robin is smaller than yours and more delicate looking and I think our Goldfinch is smaller too and I believe yours lacks the red which ours has. Yes, your chickadees are in the same family as our Blue, Great and Coal Tits but confusingly our Long-tailed Tit is not a member of that family and in fact not a Tit at all!
    Thank you also for your kind words about my forthcoming surgery, it will be wonderful to be able to see clearly again.
    I do hope the bad snowstorms we have seen in your part of the world is not affecting you too badly Rose.


    Thank you very much marmmee :)


    Thank you very much Rajesh :)

  29. Hi. I wandered into here from Liz at Gwirrels' Garden and I've had a lovely time reading your posts and identifying which birds come into my garden! I was going to do the Bird Watch but ended up in bed with flu instead! :(

    We've got sparrows, wrens, blue tits, greenfinches, chaffinches, robins, evil vegetable-eating wood pigeons, blackbirds, starlings, song thrushes, bullfinches and, occasionally, a jay. I'm trying very hard to lure the goldfinches from my neighbours garden - but they're not having any of it!

  30. You had a good varitey of species for your bird count...Numbers of all species are down here in my yard compared to what it was say 10 yrs ago in this location. Very good photograhpy--I've seen some buds on the trees here so Spring is just around the corner!

  31. Nutty Gnome

    Welcome! Thank you very much for visiting and for your kind comments :)

    Sorry to hear you had the flu, I hope it wasn't the dreaded porcine variety!!

    It sounds like you have a very good variety of birds visiting your garden, I have only caught one very brief glimpse of a Bullfinch, early last year, and that was the first time since I was a child! and I have never seen a Jay in the garden, I would love that.

    I find the Goldfinches can't resist Sunflower hearts and they also like niger seed but if you feed that it is best to put it in a special nuger seed feeder or you may get plants you don't want :)

    I do hope you visit again, you will be very welcome.

  32. We did the bird watch too but it's always a weekend when the birds seem to make themselves scarce.

    We have definitely noticed a lack of startlings but have quite a lot of house sparrows - never had a blackcap though - you are lucky to have so many interesting birds visiting.

  33. Dixxe's Doodles

    Thank you very much Dixxe, there are signs of Spring here but it has turned colder again and we are threatened with more snow in a few days!
    We used to have some lovely mature native trees backing on to our garden which attracted a lot of birds but sadly they were felled some years ago resulting, I suspect, in a fall off of some of the species we might have expected to see such as Woodpeckers.

  34. Green Lane Allotments

    Welcome! Thank you very much for visiting and for your kind comment. I think the birds know we want to count them and do a disappearing act until the hour is over :)
    We have been lucky enough to have Blackcaps in the garden for the last few Winters, they are delightful little birds.
    I do hope you visit me again, you will be very welcome :)

  35. Fantastic photography love the Collared Doves,and the Blackcap is a stunner.

  36. It seems I have been gone far too long. I am sorry to hear you are having surgery. I hope that it is a complete success and your recovery is short with no discomfort.

    It was lovely seeing all the many birds at your feeders. I think we may have all your missing House Sparrows and Starlings. They seem to be birds I see most often in my garden. I have so many Sparrows and Wrens in the Lady Banks rose bush, it looks alive.

  37. Hi Jan.
    Your Big Garden Birdwatch was a great success. Sorry to hear about your eye problems. I hope the surgery goes very well.

  38. Hi ShySongbird - what a lovely post and such fabulous pictures too - I was having a browse though some of your other posts too this evening - you really take some lovely photos too. I'm hoping to get myself a better camera with a better zoom in particular - do you have any recommendations?

    Really sorry to hear of your eye problem not that I'd seen it in a previous post but as someone who loves the outdoors and wildlife in general eye sight is so important and really hope that everything goes well for you for the surgery and your recovery time too.

    Take care - Miranda x

  39. An absolutely beautiful set of photos shysongbird x Love them all,and you had a good selection of birdies xxx

  40. JRandSue

    Thank you very much John, I do look forward, every Winter, to seeing the Blackcaps.

    Morning Glories in Round Rock

    Dear Jenny, Thank you for your very kind comments and for your concern. I'm so glad you are back, I was getting a little worried!
    Now I know where all the Sparrows and Starlings went :)
    I would love to see your Lady Banks 'alive' with Sparrows and Wrens, it must be a lovely sight :)

  41. Ken Browne

    Thank you for your kind comments and concern. Yes, I enjoyed the birdwatch, it will be interesting to see the results when they are published.

    Miranda Bell

    Thank you for your lovely comments, you are very kind.
    I don't think I am very well qualified to advise you on what camera to buy but I can tell you what I have. My camera is the Canon 450d and the lens I use the most is a Canon 55-250mm with image stabiiser, I then usually crop the photos quite heavily. I also have a Sigma 150-500mm also with image stabiliser. It is a very good lens but I do find it rather heavy and really should get round to buying a tripod or monopod, then there would be no problem.
    Thank you also for your kind wishes concerning my eye problems.


    Thank you very much Karen, of course I have seen some 'regular' birds since which must have been hiding during the count :)

  42. Thank you so much for the info on the cameras you use... v. helpful... there are so many to choose from and so any help is great! Mx

  43. Hi again Jan, seriously hanging my head in shame as it has taken so long to leave a comment here. I did see you’d posted but wanted to take time and not rush reading and commenting… then days roll on as you know. Sorry :-)

    Congrats here, you got a great species list there! Good to see both male and female Blackcap too as well as your newly recognised Stock dove! That must have been a surprise. As you said to John it is very possible it has been there before and in different light you saw it as a Woodpigeon. In the past I’ve always wondered that about the Tree Sparrow but now I’ve seen it I can see its collar too is a giveaway.

    Oh gosh Jan, ordinary eye surgery doesn’t sound the best but I guess if there was any doubt at all that the laser would be unable to fix your problem/condition then you want them to do a proper job. Doing the eyes separately will drag the whole thing out too but I guess until one eye heals you’ll need the other. I do hope you are able to see the birds and wildlife in your garden and out on your walks.

    Gosh… I can’t imagine how difficult taking photos, reading and writing blogs must be for you just now. I’m guessing I’m not the only one who really appreciates your comments especially at this time :-D

    Back to the birds… I do think Blackbirds must move up the table this year by the sightings everyone has had. I have to say it is one of the birds I would seriously miss visit my garden.

    Re the female Blackcap, I have to say we have found her a very friendly addition to the garden. The male is definitely more aggressive to the other birds. They both generally just pass through my garden. You got a good capture of her :-)

    Wishing you a great weekend. No snow of frost on the ground this morning… perhaps I should leave the PC now and get out and tidy up my shed and greenhouse... LOL… and perhaps make time for some domestic chores too… not what are they? LOL

  44. ...sounds like you had a wonderful big garden birdwatch! So many lovely birds. Ours is this weekend. I'm sneezing and sniffing away, so it's all the best I'm in my house watching outside!

  45. Miranda Bell

    Thank you, you are very welcome, I'm glad it has helped a little and that you eventually find the right equipment.


    Thank you very much and no problem at all Shirl, I know only too well how difficult it is to keep up with blogging ;)
    Funny you should mention the Tree Sparrow as I don't think I have seen one since I was a child...BUT...perhaps I have and just not realised! Mind you Sparrows are quite infrequent visitors to our garden in recent years anyway so any type are welcome :)
    The 'eye thing' does feel like it is dragging on and there is a deterioration each day, it is getting more and more difficult to distinguish between different birds even with binoculars. I'm not looking forward at all to having it done but I am to, hopefully, being able to see better!
    I too have enjoyed the Blackcap visits, I know you have mentioned before that the male can be rather aggressive but I have never noticed that in my garden, possibly because it knows there is no point in taking the feisty Greenfinches on which dominate the feeders at the moment!
    Yes, what are domestic chores? I seem to have forgotten over the last twelve months :) Of course one thing about the eye problem is I can't see the dust so well! Unfortunately though it doesn't mean it's not there ;)
    Have a great weekend Shirl, I hope the weather isn't too bad for you.


    Thank you Kelly, yes, it was very enjoyable and I hope yours was too. So sorry you are under the weather but as you say you are in the best place, in the warm and dry. Hope you are feeling better than you were by now.


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