Thursday, 30 January 2014

Big Garden Birdwatch

When I'm not working on portraits, I spend a lot of my free time watching and learning about wildlife. It is my other great passion besides art. Living where I do, in a beautiful rural part of West Sussex, I am quite spoiled for wildlife activity as we are surrounded by woodland and our garden backs straight onto a large section that is always teeming with rabbits, deer and various species of bird.
Last weekend was the RSPB's Big Garden Birdwatch, the largest wildlife survey in the world. I took part for the first time last January and was very excited to do so again this year, keeping my fingers and toes tightly crossed that in that short hour, we would be visited by the variety of feathered creatures that are usually found in our garden; I wasn't disappointed and in total I counted 11 different species which is a positive result!

I decided to do it early Saturday morning as I know from watching the birds at various times during the day that the activity levels are very high earlier in the day. I'm rather glad I did because although it started off misty at 9am, the sun eventually burnt that off and it was lovely mild hour to sit in the garden with a flask of tea and my notepad. My mum did it with me and we were both amazed by the amount of calling and singing there was going on! It's certainly true what's being said; that the birds must think Spring is here.

It was a actually a day of firsts in terms of what we spotted-normally we frequently see one great-spotted woodpecker on the nuts or fat feeders but this time we had both a male and a female at the same time! Not only that but we had a pair of nuthatches on the feeders when we usually only ever see one at a time, so on top of a fabulous range of species, those spots were real highlights!
Here's our list:

Blue tits: 6
Great tits: 4
Marsh tits: 2
Coal tits: 2
Nuthatch: 2
Great-spotted woodpecker: 2
Robin: 1
Blackbird (f): 1
Carrion crow: 1
Woodpigeon: 1
Wren: 1

It was by pure fluke that we spotted the wren as it was over the other side of our garden, standing on a pile of wood and the only reason we looked over there was because we spotted the robin land there! 

We get both the coal and marsh tits quite frequently in our garden, pretty much daily for one or the other. I'm having to assume that the marsh tits are marsh and not willow tits, as I know that willows are much more scarce but look incredibly similar to the marsh. I did ask the RSPB if there was any easy way to tell them apart and in a nutshell, there isn't! If the silly things would keep still long enough, we might have a better idea but I'm sticking with marsh tits; it's much more likely.
I'm actually peering out of the windows a lot more frequently now, as I've become much more aware of the activity in the garden. What with Spring just around the corner (hopefully!) it seems the birds are becoming much busier, both stocking up on food for the cold nights and searching out that perfect mate.

**Don't forget: if you took part in the birdwatch but couldn't submit your results online (they had a few tech issues) then you have until 16th February to do it**

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