The RSPB’s annual Big Garden Birdwatch was this weekend. It’s a great activity that gets people all over the UK, young and old, out watching birds. We only didn’t take part this year because we live in the wrong country. It is thanks to the RSPB and teachers at my primary school that I have such an interest in birds today.
Though even when we did take part, it wasn’t always much fun. Our London home had a garden but was on a corner plot with a road on each side and to top it off our neighbour had cats. The first couple of times that we took part we saw no birds at all in our garden in our hour. We even decided to count birds flying over a garden but that didn’t bring the count up. We could see the odd bird from our window, but they didn’t count. I remember that the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch allowed you, in theory, to register an hour spent with no birds seen but in practice when we tried to log it on their website it wouldn’t work unless we recorded a bird being seen!
It was only when our neighbour with cats moved away that we got anywhere.
We had some bird feeders up and the best one we ever had came from the RSPB shop and had suckers so that it stuck to the window. It meant that we could see the birds from our dining table. Occasionally it fell off, especially in very bad weather, and it ended up so badly cracked that we chucked it out rather than bring it with us. But it was fun for a year or so and I would recommend it to anyone interested in attracting birds for the first time. Our most frequent visitors to the bird feeder were Blue Tits and Great Tits as well as one rather enterprising mouse, who leapt from a nearby tree to the feeder. Hmm, maybe the mouse contributed to the feeder falling off? Whatever the reason, I attribute Mtoto’s interest in birds to this bird feeder.
Once the cats had gone, we also had regular visits from Dunnocks. They were so regular that they set up a nest in our hedge and had a baby there! The Dunnocks weren’t table feeders and used to hang out on the ground instead. They were also quite shy, but we could often see them when we left our back door open. Good times.
On the day of the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch in 2014 quite a lot of birds flew over our garden and descended on a rowan tree in our street. We couldn’t work out what they were at first but eventually we realised, after a bit of bird book viewing, that they were fieldfares. I don’t think I had ever seen them before and I haven’t seen them since.
Today, in honour of the 2015 event, we did a bit of birdwatching. We’ve got feeders on both our front and back balconies but all we saw was sparrows, the same as every day. But Mtoto likes sparrows, largely because he sees them at such close quarters. Some of them have even been known to stay feeding while he’s playing on the balcony so maybe they like him too. And although they’re everywhere in Geneva, according to RSPB statistics, sightings of sparrows have declined by 60% since the first event in 1979.
I was excited to see on Twitter that some of my running friends from Hilly Fields Parkrun had been over to Hilly Fields to do the Birdwatch today. They even had RSPB charts to help them record their sightings. The count can be done on the RSPB website directly too, where Blackbirds, Blue Tits, Carrion Crows, Chaffinches, Coal Tits, Collared Doves, Dunnocks, Feral Pigeons, Goldfinches, Great Tits, Greenfinches, House Sparrows, Jackdaws, Long-tailed Tits, Magpies, Robins, Song Thrushes, Starlings, Woodpigeons and Wrens are the top birds listed. They also ask people to record their sightings of Badgers, Grey Squirrels, Red Squirrels, Muntjac Deer, Roe Deer, Hedgehogs, Slow Worms and Grass Snakes! The last three should be hibernating, they say, but people might still see them.
Another Birdwatch connection that excited me was that a teacher at a primary school in Brockley got in touch with my friends at Frendsbury Community Garden and asked if she could bring her pupils over to do the Birdwatch in the community garden. It was great to hear of another way that local children are being connected to this garden that was so special for us before we moved away. I also have to thank teachers at my primary school who got our class involved in the Young Ornothologists Club (the youth wing of the RSPB!) many years ago – their efforts has inspired me for in my efforts today.
Today I took a 2 mile walk this afternoon and my knee was fine and mostly I saw Sparrows!