Guest Blog – Big Bird Race by Jonny Rankin


About me

Based in Bury St Edmunds Suffolk, I have a number of interests but I am always content to be out birding, which is usually every day walking my dog Fender.  I do a lot of birding in Suffolk Breck but of course go further afield too.


Firstly many thanks for the opportunity to introduce the Big Bird Race to your readers, I am keen to tell as many audiences as possible about the day.

I notice from your Another world record coming up? post the differing comments on Bird Racing from your readers; Steve doesn’t like them owing to the carbon emissions (but then he was also broadly unhappy in his post!) whilst Chris hit the nail on the head ‘… birds remain, for me, the thing above all things’. I loved this comment and I think it offers a great introduction to why three friends and myself are doing the Big Bird Race on Sunday.

We generally do ‘a big day’ each May, starting locally and working up to the north Norfolk coast but we have never gone for the full 24 hours and nor have we prepared so much in advance. This year the principle difference is we are doing it for not just ourselves but for the RSPB and two of their campaigns.

We chose the Harapan Rainforest project to support as it has more global implications but are also very proud to be supporting the freshly launched Operation Turtle Dove campaign. All four of us consider Turtle Dove a ‘day maker’ and after reading about the problems Turtle Dove face cross-continent on migration and the resulting decline we are delighted to be supporting this operation.

Whilst the carbon emissions are a negative – I can make little excuse for them  – the drive to do something exciting to support these RSPB campaigns far outweighs this negative. As we already have and hope to have more per-species sponsors we will travel to encounter as many as possible – albeit within East Anglia!

As such feel free to visit the JustGiving page or even leave a per-species pledge via the comments section below – we are extremely proud of our fund raising to date and hope the big day will excite others too.

As Chris said birds remain for all four of us, the thing above all things.


Comment from Mark: Good luck to Jonny and friends on seeing lots of birds tomorrow and raising lots of money for these two good causes.

Last weekend the ‘Bird Race’ which helped launch the Wales Coast Path, which simply added up species seen by any observers from the Coastal Path through the day,  logged up a total of 140 species including a dotterel as the first bird and including red-rumped swallow and smew from the RSPB Newport Wetlands nature reserve (how many people in the UK have seen those two species on the same day before, I wonder?).  The best analysed, most perfectly assessed and long-agonised guess at the total was…mine, of 139.

The weather looks fine for Sunday in East Anglia and my guess at Jonny’s total is 121 species – this time I’ll be miles away.

Website Pin Facebook Twitter Myspace Friendfeed Technorati Digg Google StumbleUpon Premium Responsive

Get email notifications of new blog posts

Registration confirmation will be emailed to you.

10 Replies to “Guest Blog – Big Bird Race by Jonny Rankin”

  1. Morning Mark,

    We managed 145 species in the end. With the highlight all five species of owl - we started with Tawny and Long-eared in quick succession and ended the day watching Short-eared hunting!

    Other surprises came via a Red Kite, which although increasingly common remains a great Norfolk bird and the star of the day a summer plumaged Black-necked Grebe at Snettisham - which was doubly welcome as we couldn't find a Little Grebe anywhere!

    Thank again for letting me share the event with your readers and also for your pledge via the Bits and bits post.

    All the best,


    1. Jonny - well done! sounds like fun, too. So I owe you £24 - let's call it £25. best wishes

        1. Yes, it's a slick website - makes it easy to depart with £'s. Which is great for fund-raising!

          Many thanks for your donation - I am delighted to be over 30% towards our target. I was also pleased to encounter a singing Turtle Dove yesterday - it was bird number 68 at Lakenheath RSPB. A timely reminder of Operation Turtle Dove and a good pep up to combat exhaustion!



          1. Jonny - excellent! Apart from dabchick - any other interesting 'misses'?

  2. Hi Jonnny. Thanks for the kind endorsment and I'm pleased you had an excellent day! As many species in just one day as I saw in the first 120 days of this year - great work. Hope you can keep pushing for 100% of the total.

  3. For many years, the UK Birdrace was quite an organised event - recently, however, this has all stopped - a real shame I reckon. I wonder, though - are we seeing a return in interest this year? I for one hope so - well done Jonny.

    Last Sunday, I spent 24 hours racing around Buckinghamshire with three frends, and we managed to break the 8-year-old record getting 122 species. Not bad for an inland county lacking in decent wader habitat! The Bucks record is now higher than both Berks and Northants, two of our near neighbours.

    What is interesting is to look back at the changes. In 2005 we rcorded 121, but the species involved were quite different:

    * We heard LEO in 2005, and don't know of any breeders in Bucks now. 3 years of Atlas survey work has produced a blank
    * In 2005 we easily saw our singing Tree Pipits. This colony has now gone, and they are extinct as a local breeding bird
    * Gone the same way was the one outlier pair of Woodlarks seen on that day, plus the hard winter two years ago wiped out all our Darford Warblers, seen at one site in 2005. We didn't get Turtle Dove this year either - the only one seen in Bucks so far this was found the day after the race, and we all hope the writing isn't on the wall - good luck for all involved with Operation Turtle Dove.
    * Lastly, we heard one of the last remaining Lady A's in 2005, now gone from Bucks, plus we also easily saw our Ruddy Ducks. None of those now, and we all know why.

    So, what have we gained? We now have two pairs of Peregrine in Bucks (webcam here -, and a lot more Ravens (though we did see the first breeding pair back in 2005.

    We got lucky with Goshawk this year, and saw what could be the very last Willow Tit in the county, though it's worryingly paired with a Marsh Tit. Crossbills have bred in Bucks this year which is great, and we got both Siskin and Lesser Redpoll on territory for the first time on a bird race. We've replaced the two plastics with Cat C Barnacle Geese and RCP, but would hardly see that as progress. Interestingly, we failed to find one of our few Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers on either bird race.

    So, some gains but a sad list of loses. And interesting reflections for anyone who thinks extinction is all about events happening thousands of miles away...

    1. Ben - welcome and thank you for a very interesting post. Those are interesting changes and,as you say, chime with the changes in ppulations generally.

      There might actually be a real value, as well as lots of fun, in Bird Races.

      Of course, similar information can be extracted from Birdtrack if you enter your records as full lists regularly - evry day out birding can be a bit of a bird race day.

  4. Yes, plenty of other misses on top of dabchick. Despite walking through two Willow Tit & two Lesser Pecker territories we didn't record them - not even a drum or a call. Perhaps 'our' Breck birds are waning like Ben's over in Bucks. Doubly sad as I always considered this the core to peripheral territories.

    The effects of the rainy, turbulent weather over the last few weeks caused many misses too Quail & Monty's Harrier, which we easily encountered last year aren't back on territory. But perhaps the biggest misses were the waders, we didn't get Ruff, Greenshank, Curlew Sand, Little Stint or Spotted Redshank! All of which are normally standard fare at this time of year.

    We did get Whimbrel at Titchwell & three cracking Temmink's Stint Cley so waders weren't completely amiss!

    These birds simply weren't there to see - which isn't as concerning as the woodland birds.

    We still had a lot of luck & the Black-necked Grebe was the first I've seen in summer plumage - an immense sight!




Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.