Sunday, 6 February 2011

Curtain up on the Big Garden Birdwatch 2011!

The stage was set and the audience waiting last weekend but would the star performers turn up? It was, of course, the RSPB's Big Garden Birdwatch weekend and the stage had been set by making sure all the feeders were topped up and by putting some extra apples, sultanas and suet treats out. The feeders and tables, as usual, contained mixed seed, sunflower hearts, suet sprinkles and dried mealworms. This audience of one chose Saturday for the hour long performance and waited with eager anticipation. So at 1pm, with binoculars at the ready, it was camera, lights, action for a matinee performance! On this occasion though the big spotlight in the sky failed which meant that unfortunately the camera was redundant

'Ah! little dreamt I of the cloudy sky,

Which o'er my path would cast the dreary shade;
That, as on light'ning's wing my bliss would fly,

And every flower of hope's creation fade!'
(Samuel Dobell)

I am very pleased I decided to pick Saturday for my count as Sunday was an unusually quiet day in the garden, I suspect that the Sparrowhawk was around or the troublesome cat from next door! Anyway on Saturday a handful of star performers did turn up and my count was as follows.

Chaffinch 7

Greenfinch 6

Blackbird 5

Starling 4

Goldfinch 3

Blue Tit 2

House Sparrow 2

Wood Pigeon 2

Coal Tit 1

Great Tit 1

Robin 1

Dunnock 1

Collared Dove 1

And now the star performers and top of the bill, in no particular order :)

Blackcap 1

Brambling 1

Redwing 1

As it was such a bad day for the light all of the photos (some taken through glass) are from my archives with the exception of the Brambling. I last saw Bramblings in the garden three years ago. I first noticed them on the ground feeding amongst the Chaffinches and a small flock then visited each day for some weeks, they were a delight to watch but unfortunately I didn't have a decent camera at that time so although the light was bad last Saturday I managed to at least get some record shots through glass of this very welcome little visitor.


I had been hoping to see some ever since the weather turned wintry but hadn't been lucky but I was going through some photos yesterday which I took in December and which again fell victim to bad light, I was just about to delete some which I had taken of Goldfinches when to my amazement I noticed that in the top corner of three of them was...a Brambling!! So it just goes to show that sometimes there are birds visiting our gardens which we are just not aware of. I really must look more carefully and more often in future. I also forgot to mention on my last post that I had been visited by a Great Spotted Woodpecker!! It was at the far end of the garden on one of the peanut feeders and unfortunately I wasn't able to get a photograph, I fear it may have been a one off visit as it was during the very bad weather but I'll keep hoping.

Now, back to the count and the largest amount of birds I saw at one time were Chaffinches.


Greenfinches are regular visitors


as are Goldfinches and although I only recorded 3 during my hour's count, I usually see them in much larger numbers.


'Sometimes goldfinches one by one will drop

From low hung branches; little space they stop,

But sip, and twitter, and their feathers sleek,
Then off at once, as in a wanton freak;
Or perhaps, to show their black and golden wings,
Pausing upon their yellow flutterings.'
(John Keats)

Blue Tits are seen most days

Blue Tit

and so are Great Tits

Great Tit

The male Blackcap has been around the garden for some weeks now. Last year on Big Garden Birdwatch day I recorded 2 males and 1 female but this Winter I haven't seen a female so far.


I am pretty sure I saw a Tree Sparrow on a seed feeder at the far end of the garden but unfortunately it wasn't there long enough for me to be certain so I couldn't record it. I did see a couple of House Sparrows which are nowhere near as common in the garden as they used to be.

House Sparrow

'In simple suit of russet brown,
I thus am daily dressed,
While other birds on me look down;
Yet I've a peaceful breast.
No envy for the loud and gay
Shall e'er my bosom harrow ;
More lowly, I'm more blest than they,
A fearless, trustful sparrow !'

(Hannah Flagg Gould)

Of course it was no surprise that the Starlings turned up, they can never resist the fat treats.


I don't think there is a day goes by without Blackbirds in the garden.


It is always lovely to see the Robin. I don't see it every day although I usually hear it so I was pleased it appeared to have its name recorded on Big Garden Birdwatch day. I like to put grated cheese and dried mealworms out as a special treat for it in the Winter.


'Come here, little Robin, and don't be afraid,
I would not hurt even a feather;
Come here, little Robin, and pick up some bread,
To feed you this very cold weather.

Cold Winter is come, but it will not last long,

And Summer we soon shall be greeting;
Then remember, sweet Robin, to sing me a song,
In return for the breakfast you're eating!'

Apart from the Brambling the biggest surprise of the hour came when I was watching the Blackbirds eating apples which I had scattered on the ground. I suddenly realised that one didn't look quite right, I took a closer look through the binoculars and was thrilled to see a Redwing had dropped in to join the performance!


And so the curtain closed on another year's Big Garden Birdwatch and it was nice to have a couple of surprises. One notable absence this time though was the Long-tailed Tit. I haven't seen any in the garden for some time but of course they do tend to all flit in together in a rush and disappear again just as quickly so it may be that I have missed them but they definitely didn't put in an appearance for the count this year. Have a great week...and enjoy the beauty of Nature, wherever you are.


  1. Dear Jan, thank you for sharing your RSPB birdwatch with us.
    That gave me the opportunity to compare with mine.

    My unusual visit was from the reed buntings.....such a joy to see them amongst the sparrows. They visited last year as well.

    I was saddened to only count one greenfinch. I used to have such a large flock here and fear that they may have fallen to the virus that plagues their species.

    I love the Green Woodpecker.....I have one that visits the copse regularly to eat the ants from the large ant hills. I have never managed to get a photograph.......

    Love you image of the Redwing.....they are lovely birds.

    Have a good week Jan and hope hubby is progressing well......

  2. Euh I only have two bohemian waxwings in my garden ;-) I indeed rarely see birds there, time to time, northern weather or common wren :-) Thanks for your words, it helped me a lot to know that even if we never met, you still had nice words for me ;-)

  3. You always have such a great bunch of birds around. We hardly have any during the winter. But my little chocolate guy (who now I was told is a song sparrow?) stays and visits alot of the time. He seems to be the only one of his kind around. That kind of makes me sad, hope he has friends somewhere else that he goes. He's so sweet. Your Robin sure is different from ours. Yours is adorable. Also the blackbird is different.
    Great post as usual and I've really enjoyed it.

  4. Thanks for sharing your BGBW - we don't have it in Ireland, we have one that runs for 13 weeks!! Lovely that you got the Redwing in the count and you got your Brambling - Yay :)
    I miss all the members of the Tit family - we only get a couple of Coalies & 1 Blue Tit - haven't had a Great Tit since about March last year!
    Lovely photos again ShySongbird and thanks for your comments on mine, always makes me smile :)

  5. I'd say you had a great turn out for you event!! AND the photos you shared today are awesome...I love the chaffinch shot.
    No way I could have counted the WILD and Unruly pine siskins in the yard today..they came in like a herd of buffalo and emptied the feeder and then off they went into the sunset!

  6. You had a much better day than I did. It was such a miserable day I din't bother. Well done Jan.

  7. Pretty good list, though very low numbers of birds? Loved the goldfinch wow! I saw starlings and house finches today at the park, thank goodness they do not visit our feeders. A count of birds here would bring around the same number of different birds, yet we'd easily total over a 100 birds in number about any day.

  8. ...glad you got your Brambling and Redwing! I think the photos are lovely too even if the sun decided not to shine. Looks like a successful count to me!

  9. A good selection of birds Jan.
    I seldom get Chaffinches in the garden, and certainly not Brambling. A great visitor.
    A Blackcap too; that's quite a nature reserve you have there :)

    Great pictures to accompany the post.

  10. It's always a good idea to make each day count ~ and you definitely did with your wonderful variety of birds, lovingly enveloped with your sweet poetry and words.

  11. I would say that is close to what we recorded in our garden Jan.
    Although some of the counts differ, namely House Sparrows, Starlings, Blackbirds and Chaffinches which are all into double figures.
    We have a regular Brambling in the garden this year strangly a Moorhen also.The minus side has seen the decline of Greenfinch visitors (we have not seen one this year in the garden). Goldcrest and Firecrest have failed to appear and the Bullfinches are rather spasmodic. Lucky we still do have the Blackcaps.
    I hope everyone is improving your end . A lovely post as usual.

  12. Well done with the BGW Jan. You certainly made an effort and then reaped the rewards! I'm envious of your Brambling, haven't seen one for about three years now. With Blackcap and Redwing as well, it makes a great one hour list.

  13. Good list there Songbird for just an hours watching ! Redwing is a good species for the garden, and i'm well jealous of that Brambling, as you know ive been looking all this year for one!

  14. A great selection of visitors there Jan. Greenfinch numbers have plummeted here. I see the odd one from time to time. Great you got some star performers as well.
    I think Samuel Dobell described the present weather condition extremely well.
    A lovely collection of photos, poetry and prose.

  15. pretty good going jan for one hours watching, i'd settle for that for one weeks, bramblings and redwings to boot, i'll bet you looked like the cat that got the cream, well done.

  16. Jan,

    Well done on your BGW list, wished I had half of them, my best count was 32 House Sparrows. I have had one Blackcap in 25 years though, so can't grumble.

  17. ShySongbird ,
    Carol managed about the same number of species as you , but when it comes to 'quality' , you win hands down .
    We agree with your statement that we never really know what visits the garden , as some of our stars 'just happen to be noticed' once , and maybe not seen again .
    Great read and shots .

  18. Cheryl

    Thank you Cheryl :) What a treat to see Reed Buntings in your garden, I would love to but don't think it likely.
    Although I have seen signs of that horrible disease from time to time, I still have good numbers of Greenfinches visiting, thank goodness!
    Have a good week and I hope the wind has dropped where you are by now.


    Thank you Chris :) I could always swap some of my birds for one of your Waxwings ;)
    I do hope your health keeps improving...and stop laying in that snow!! :)


    Thank you Linda :) Lovely to see you back, I hope you are feeling much better now.
    I have seen the Song Sparrow on blogs but we don't have it here, I hope yours finds some friends soon :)
    Yes, our Robin is very much smaller than yours, we love it here and it always features heavily on Christmas cards.


    Thank you Sharon :) Yours lasts for 13 weeks?? Goodness!
    Yes, I thought about you and your Brambling when mine turned up. It seems to visit most days and I almost got a decent photo of it today...until the neighbour slammed a door and disturbed it :(


    Thank you Dixxe :) You did make me laugh with your comment about the Pine Siskins, you painted such an amusing picture :)

    Mike Atwood

    Thank you Mike :) Oh dear! Better luck next year perhaps :)

  19. Randy

    Thank you Randy :) We do get very much larger numbers of birds visiting over the course of a day but the rules of the count are that it must only last for an hour and that you can only count the largest amount of any one species which you see in the garden at the same time Which of course is to avoid counting the same bird more than once and giving a false picture of how many birds visit.


    Thank you Kelly :) I was pleased with the count and it was nice to have a couple of surprises on the big day :)


    Thank you Keith :) It was great to see the Brambling and I have seen it a few tmes since too. I just need a decent photo of it now!
    It feels like I am catering for a nature reserve with the amount of food I put out each day :)


    Thank you Glo :) I wish I could post every day like you have been but I know I couldn't keep up the pace. I think your visits to Harzel must be invigorating you with special super powers :)

    The Abbot

    Thank you Trevor :) So many people have mentioned to me lately that they are not seeing so many Greenfinches which is worrying.
    You are lucky to have Gold and FireCrests in the garden, I have never seen either in mine and have only ever had one fleeting visit from a Bullfinch that I know of.
    Yes, thank you things are improving nicely here :)


    Thank you Phil :) I was really pleased to see the Brambling, a shame it wasn't the flock we had three years ago though! The Redwing was a lovely surprise too and I would have been disappointed not to see the Blackcap as it had been around for a few weeks as had the Brambling of course but I didn't realise that until afterwards :)

  20. Warren Baker

    Thank you Warren :) I had a feeling you would say that about the Brambling ;) I still haven't seen a Waxwing though so you have beaten me there even though I know you would have preferred it to be officially on your patch.

    Midmarsh John

    Thank you John :) The amount of people mentioning the lack of Greenfinches is worrying, of course it could be that they are all in my garden :)


    Thank you Denis :) I must admit they did me proud, they must have known it was a special day :)

    Derek Faulkner

    Thank you Derek :) One Blackcap in 25 years?? Oh dear! Still, never mind you make up for it with the goodies on your reserve.


    Thank you Greenie (and Carol) :) I do wonder what we miss sometimes, maybe we need CCTV cameras all around our gardens. I suspect we would be surprised at just what does visit when we are not looking.

  21. Hi Jan.
    Like your bird sightings for the Big Garden watch. Nice comparing yours against mine. I just wish I had a couple of Brambling feeding in my garden,nice photo's Jan

  22. Ken

    Thank you Ken :) Always nice to see you here. I have seen the Brambling several times since, I just need some better photos of it now.

  23. A great production, Jan! Love your star turns too... that must have been quite a treat for you. Great photos and good numbers too :-)

    Nice to see the Blackcap male. Haven't seen one in a few years. We usually see a female pass through but no sign this year. We haven't seen Long-tailed tits this year either.

    Your male Chaffinch photo caught my eye. Well, the beak actually. Maybe it's my imagination but I thought it looked bigger than the ones in my garden. They are never that dark and shiny either. However it was the length and hook of the top bill that made me look longer. I instantly thought of the crossbill.

    An interesting one, don't know if anyone else thought the same. Sorry, late with this. Had probs leaving my comment, Blogger must be playing up. Hope it works this time :-)

  24. I so enjoyed seeing your count, Jan. I think our Great American Bird Watch isn't until this weekend or next; I need to check this out so I can participate again. I doubt I'll have as many different species, though, as I did last year; I still haven't seen any woodpeckers here this winter. I did see a robin last week, which always makes me think of spring. But he may have flown back south when the winter storms arrived; I hope so because it's frigid here today!

  25. shirl

    Hi Shirl, thank you :) Blogger can be very temperamental, the worst is when, having written a long comment, it says there has been an error and you have to start all over again :(
    I usually have a female Blackcap visit in the Winter but no sign so far, unless I have missed it of course.
    Regarding the Chaffinch, it may be partly how the light was falling on the beak which makes it look more shiny. I must admit I hadn't noticed myself though. I think the bark on the branch behind may also make it look slightly deceiving but it does look a little overgrown and hooked. I know that birds do suffer beak deformities and that it has become of concern in Alaska particularly! I must do some more reading on that.
    Have a good weekend Shirl :)

  26. Such wonderful photos and I've learned so much, I'll come back and re-read this. You have so many birds I've never seen before.

  27. I'm sorry, it has been so long. But, I am supprised at the amount of birds in your garden. Great to have so many.

  28. Rose

    Hi Rose :) Sorry for the late reply. I would love to see woodpeckers in the garden regularly, I know you see them in yours more than I do in mine.
    I hope it is a little milder there now!

  29. Country Mouse Studio

    Bob Bushell

    Hi Carol and Bob :) In the unlikely event you may check back here, please accept my apologies for omitting to answer your comments. They are always read with relish and greatly welcomed :)


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