It was more of a challenge than usual to fit doing the Big Garden Birdwatch into a busy weekend but I am glad that I did.
Looking out the window and eating crumpets and Marmite whilst drinking tea isn’t the most arduous form of field work I have known – and there is always the chance of seeing something unusual. My usual unusual sighting is a blackcap – I hardly ever see those in the garden except when I spend an hour doing the BGBW and then they have been quite frequent. But this year’s unusual bird was not a blackcap.
The sunflower feeders were well-attended and goldfinches reached a peak of 14 birds, with greenfinches getting up to 6 and chaffinches a respectable 3.
At one point 2 pairs of blackbirds were both sitting on the fence together and a robin appeared briefly. This year there was no wren (can I remember when last I saw one in the garden?) and although a dunnock was singing next door almost throughout the hour none appeared in my garden – or at least if they did then I missed them.
It was about half way through before I saw a house sparrow and just one – that’s a low count for my garden. A pair of collared doves and up to three wood pigeons came in and went away.
The unusual bird, a first for the garden, was a female brambling, feeding with the chaffinches and the goldfinches on sunflower seeds. She appeared twice and stayed long enough for me to enjoy her. It’s a simple pleasure – the first of a relatively common species that you see in your garden – but it made my day and added to the enjoyment of recording all the other species.
I’ve often been asked in the past whether there is any real value to the BGBW and I do believe that there is. Its longevity, its standardised albeit very simple method, and the large number of people taking part right across the UK make it a useful, though rough, barometer of bird fortunes in our gardens. It has faithfully mirrored the general trends of more specialised and expert surveys so it must be more or less right and therefore valuable. If, suddenly, blue tits got much rarer or there were a plague of bramblings, then the BGBW would spot that as quickly as other monitoring schemes.
So I do the BGBW, still, through a sense of duty but also because I really enjoy it. Even if I had not seen my first brambling for my garden I would have enjoyed setting aside that single hour to look for and at birds. I enjoyed looking at the two male blackbirds getting a bit shirty with each other on the fence, and watching the goldfinches massing in a tree before swooping down to feed.
And If you have done a BGBW this year then do remember to send in your form of enter the data online – I’ve done mine!