Six on Saturday: 6.2.21-Garden Birdwatch results

Last week we carried out our Big Garden Birdwatch for the RSPB. As expected I didn’t end up with all the birds we have visiting. With several trees having been taken out next door but one it has affected how many birds are coming in. It was also a very windy wet weekend so I think some of the birds will have been sheltering. But I still like to keep the log each year to give me a long term record of how the garden is doing. For the week after we’ve had far bigger numbers visiting but that is how the birdwatch goes. I reckon every school locally set the birdwatch as part of their home learning so the birds have been well. I took a few photos along the way. They aren’t my best as I was shooting through the glass as I didn’t want to disturb the birds. But they illustrate which we see a lot of.

1. House sparrows

Normally, I get both dunnocks and house sparrows but only the house sparrows came in during our watch so that was all I included. These enjoy the ivy hedge that runs behind our garden. It provides plenty of thick cover to flit in and out of.

2. Blackbirds

We are getting many blackbirds in currently. They mainly feed from seed left out in the ground feeders and from the apple tree in a neighbours garden. But they will also dig around in the borders for food.

3. Collared dove

We have seen a lot of the collared doves and wood pigeons dominating the feeders currently. At times they can become a bit of a deterrent for some of the smaller birds which is part of why I keep some feeders in the mass of lilac where they can’t fly.

4. Blue tit

The blue tits had been in and out in the run-up to the birdwatch but were absent when it came to the count. The great tit did show, however.

5. Wren

The wrens have been visiting a lot and coming along the honeysuckle on the fence right up to the house. However, they are very speedy hopping around so I’m struggling to get a photo in focus. Here it is hiding behind a plant label.

6. Gulls

We get gulls in most days, usually sitting on the shed. At the moment they are not getting as much fish and chips so they are being a bit aggressive and have broken a few feeders shredding them open.

I’m hoping my number continues to grow as the garden establishes. The climbers are gradually taking over the fence giving birds more cover. I have a number of plants that provide food for birds. So with any luck, my garden should be able to counter the loss of trees along the street. I have finished my isolation period after recovering from Covid. I’m still a bit tight of breath but I am feeling a lot better. Not planning much gardening right now but should get back into it soon. For now, I’ve got 10 more plant profiles to write up for my RHS. It’s been a bit rushed finishing the current propagation assignment after covid. But almost all done. Hope you are all keeping well.

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Six on Saturday: 30.1.21

Well, this week has been spent at home. I tested positive for Covid at the start of the week. I didn’t show a lot of the common symptoms but I had a splitting headache and I was very achey. I seem to have been let off lighter than many others. My head is still hurting but I have still been able to move within the confines of our house. Sadly, this means I haven’t got to teach beetles this week. It has meant I’ve been home schooling Alice again but she is happy with this situation. This weekend is the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch. I’ve wanted to involve Alice each year and tried to make it an event so even though we are stuck isolating at home we can still create happy memories. The birdwatch helps keep Alice interested in the garden and help teach her care for our world.

1. Robin gingerbread

We can’t do a birdwatch without snacks. I picked up a reduced Christmas baking kit a few weeks back but these would be easy enough to make without. The kit contained a gingerbread mix that you just added golden syrup and butter too. You cut a circle for the robin and a smaller circle for the breast. A hardboiled sweet went in the hole and this melted when baked to fill the circle.

The sweet didn’t come out that red, but I think they are quite cute.

2. Fat candles

Before we went into isolation I brought some lard back from work. We have an eco pantry where we get donated food the supermarkets know they won’t sell and we ended up with an abundance of lard. Fat candles are dead simple to make. Melt lard or suet in the microwave. About a minute will do. Mix in seed, raisins, grated cheese, seed, whatever you have available. Put a piece of sting in a cup and spoon the mix in around it. Put it in the fridge to set and then you can pull it out once set. This is easier with paper cups where you can cut them off. We didn;t have any in so I had to scrape it out a bit.

Off all the different home made bird feeders I’ve made over the years these are the most popular. The Cheerio feeders are largely left, the bottle feeders swing around too much. But I carry on making them with Alice as they help to engage her with the garden and the birds.

3. Bird hide

We used Alice’s den kit she got for Christmas to make a bird hide. It is not the most subtle with the red sheets but it was what we have spare.

4. I spy

I bought Alice the I spy birds book for the occasion. These are published on many themes to suit different children’s interests. You tick off as you see the birds. They each have a score. When they have reached set scores they can send them in for a certificate and a badge.

5. A robin reward

I’ve wanted to try to make the bird watch a memorable experience. While on lockdown we don’t get the chance to go out and visit places but we can still make lasting happy memories at home. So I ordered this fused glass robin to give Alice as a souvenir, something to remember it by, for when we’ve finished our birdwatch.

6. More snacks

We’ve made more chocolate nests following on from nest work. These are particular decadent with milky bar cookie chocolate and honey nut cornflakes. I’m not a big eater of chocolate preferring savoury options but these are particularly good.

The birdwatch results will follow. I’m expecting a dip from previous years due several circumstances. Lockdown means we have more seagulls in the garden as they are lacking fish and chips. These scare off many of the other birds. Also, our next door but one neighbours have had one of the tallest trees cut down. This was a perch many of the birds used before coming down onto our feeders. So, I’m expecting good numbers of gulls and pigeons but I have less expectations for the smaller birds. But we’ll see. I’ve got most of next week in isolation to recover. Hopefully get my head back to a point where it doesn’t hurt. My concentration is pretty low so sorry if I’m not reading your posts. I’m pretty restless. In the meantime, I am planning activities for children who are off home schooling. Next week’s topic is rainbows. Alice is very excited for this topic whereas I have less enthusiasm for it. They look pretty but serve no purpose so I’m looking for some hook to engage me. I hope you are all keeping well and staying safe. Enjoy your weekends.

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Big Garden Birdwatch 2020

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been talking about my preparations for the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch and yesterday we carried it out. The day was a bit overcast but not too windy and no sign of rain. Alice was helping out as it has been set as her school homework for this month. She helped prepare by making pine cone fat feeders.

We tied the string to the pine cones.

Then we mixed seed and lard.

Then we moulded it around the pine cones and placed in the fridge to set.

Then these have been placed hanging off the back gate. I don’t think the birds will be that bothered for them but I like to make something with Alice so she’s been involved. We made the Cheerio feeders last year so fancied something different this year.

We set ourselves up inside with notebooks and field guides and binoculars ready to record our sightings. Alice was very excited to write down her sightings using her My little pony multi-coloured pen. She wanted to choose colours to match the birds.

I had discussed in an earlier blog my hope that I might have the greenfinches or blackcaps in to add something different to my list but it wasn’t to be. That said, we did have a good number of birds coming in and in large numbers. The results are as follows:

  • Common gull 2
  • Wren 1
  • Starlings 6
  • House sparrows 17
  • Wood pigeon 3
  • Blackbird 4
  • Blue tit 2
  • Collared Dove 3
  • Crow 1
  • Robin 1
  • Dunnock

Of the regulars, the finches were noticeably absent and the great and long-tailed tits. But we still saw double figures of species and a good number of each. Next doors cat was patrolling the garden for much of the time so I don’t think that’s too bad a number. When I first put the feeders out I didn’t have anywhere near the number of birds visiting.

There is still time to do a count today and tomorrow if you haven’t already taken part. Even if you have you can still submit multiple counts. Having done one count with Alice I may try for one on my own so I can focus better in case I missed anything on this one. Alice had good fun though and she is naming more of the birds correctly which at the age of three I think is good going. Hope you all enjoy the rest of your weekends and if you are taking part in the count you get to see plenty.

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Big Garden Birdwatch: The results

Having posted about my preparations for the Big Garden Birdwatch here are the results. Alice sat on my knees for most of the time checking through her binoculars or drawing the birds she saw. She surprised me looking through her bird book when she named the puffin. She’s taking everything in. We currently have building work going on so I thought the birds might be visiting less as there have been people in and out the garden all week.

Alice thinks the building site is great though with lots to climb and balance along.

Most of today’s photos are taken from previous days or the trail camera as I didn’t want to go outside during the birdwatch and scare any away. I watched early morning between 8 and 9. The garden goes through bursts of bird activity. A lot come in the early morning then more at lunchtime more at dusk

Results as follows:

    • Blackbirds 8

        • House sparrows 10 +

    • Robin 1

    • Dunnocks 1
    • Jackdaw 2
    • Common gull 1

  • Woodpigeon 2
  • Starlings 10+
  • Blue tits 1
  • Wren 1

Last year I had 10 species though not the same 10. I’m not seeing the finches as much. The goldfinches have been coming in but the greenfinches and chaffinches are non-existent. I know there have been problems nationally with a disease. So it’s important to clean feeders to stop the disease from spreading if they are going to recover.

The trail camera caught lots of the action on the ground.

Not too bad a variety coming in considering the disruption in the garden currently. Quite a few common visitors didn’t come in. No collared doves, great tits or goldfinches. The crows have been visiting lots recently, but none during my watch. But that seems to be how it goes. Hope you’re all enjoying your weekends and if you are doing your own count it goes well. We have celebrated my mums birthday with a walk out and a fountain candle. A good follow up to our contribution to conservation with the Birdwatch. Today we’re off to the garden centre. She’s been calling through again and again recently in the night. So in desperation, I promised a trip to the garden centre, see the fish, get a cake and a play in the toy area if she slept through on her own. Much to our surprise, she did. Though I don’t think we can afford to get her to sleep this way everyday.

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7 days of Wild Christmas: day 2 Boxing Day

So, the Christmas Day massacre is over. The turkey has been sacrificed in the name of the Winter rituals. We can now sit back a bit more and relax. We’ve had a lovely Christmas day. I got a number of nature and gardening presents and Alice had a super day. She enjoyed being around her cousins lots, but will probably blog separately about that.

During my lazy morning I’ve done a few online acts of wild.

The Big Garden Birdwatch

The registration for the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch is now open. The Big Garden Birdwatch is one of the largest wildlife surveys in the country. It has been going since 1979 and gives a wealth of information on the decline of bird life and shifts from countryside to towns. During the weekend of the 26th of January and 28th you are asked to put an hour aside and count the birds in your garden. Last year I hit double figures though it was actually quite a quiet day in my garden.

The RSPB also encourage schools to take part through the Big Schools Birdwatch. I’ve spent a bit of my school budget on binoculars and magnifying glasses and bug viewers to encourage the children to develop an interest in nature. A few of the parents took part in the birdwatch at home as well. So I’m hoping to get some engagement in school again this year.

Online articles

During my lazy morning I’ve sat and read a few nature articles. While registering for the Big Garden Birdwatch I found a few articles on the RSPB website. If your after a quick way to connect with nature the RSPB and Wildlife Trusts websites are good sources of information for those days you can’t get out.

Robins revealed

Forest Bathing

Fox hunting

The unspeakable in full pursuit of the uneatable

Oscar Wilde

Boxing Day sees the sad pursuit of fox hunting. Despite being illegal it continues without many prosecution’s against those disregarding the law. But with rural crime units facing reduced funding they can’t tackle the lawbreakers effectively. Exactly why this upper class blood sport is allowed to continue brings anger to many. The National Trust allow fox hunting on their lands despite the membership voting against this. As such I won’t support the National Trust while this continues. I would like to visit their gardens but feel unable to support the organisation.

On a similar line grouse shooting there is another petition against grouse shooting. This is nother damaging practise against wildlife. As another act of wildness I’ve put my name to the petition opposing. Through Mark Avery this has been through government before, but it’s worth continuing showing opposition.

Petition

Listen to the birds

During the morning I popped outside to enjoy the bird song. We are staying at my parents and the garden is full of birds currently. The robins and blackbirds were singing away. The more raucous starlings were adding to the noise. The collared doves were cooing. Another little joy costing nothing.

Afternoon walk

After another feast of gluttony I got out with my mum and Alice. While not walking in the wildest areas it was good to get outside. Alice fell asleep for a nap which will do her good. She’s had a busy couple of days.

We did spot this growing around a lamp post. They seem a bit out of season.

Hope you’ve all had good Boxing Days. A bit more restful for us with a bit less travelling.

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Big Garden Birdwatch

Last weekend saw the Big Garden Birdwatch. The RSPB is survey has been going since 1979 and provides useful information on the rise and fall of garden birds. I have been putting out a variety of food across Winter attracting in a good variety of birds. However the weekend before didn’t bode well.

The snow started to come down. At first slow, then in proper flurries.

Thick enough to settle.

Come the day of the birdwatch the snow had gone, but it was still a cold, grey day. Not ideal conditions, but I’m pleased to say I still had good numbers in. The way the survey works is you count the greatest number you see at once, so you don’t count the same bird again and again.
So my results as follows:

4 Blackbirds
5 Starlings
14 Sparrows
3 Wood pigeons
2 Great tits
1 Crow
1 Wren
1 Blue tut
2 Jackdaws
10+ common gulls

So I just managed to break double figures. This was a quiet day as my garden goes, so several regular visitors didn’t show. No robins or goldfinches, which are out there now as I write. But still a respectable variety of species for a small garden.

A mass of gulls made up one of my highest counts. Though only in briefly they swoop in, quickly, and in large numbers.

The missing birds.

A little disappointed that a few birds didn’t show, but I’m still happy that my garden is helping support a decent variety of garden birds. The initial results nationally seem to be showing the sparrow as top, followed by starling, then blue tit. Being by the sea my results differ from the norm. Hopefully over next year as the cover in the garden builds at a variety of heights I will see further wildlife visiting.