RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch 2017

Every year the first date that goes in my diary is the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch. I always notice the birds in the garden, whether its the Woodpigeon’s squabbling over the grain, the Blackbirds digging around in the flower borders or the small charm of Goldfinches that are on the feeders.  But once a year I stop for a whole hour and really pay attention, counting them all.  

I perch myself on the kitchen counter to make sure I can see as much of the garden as possible and get as comfortable as I can! This year I felt more prepared. I invested in some binoculars last year which made identification quicker; its easy enough to complete the count without binoculars but there are loads of shrubs in the garden and the smaller birds hide in them, so with the aid of binoculars this time I could figure out who didn’t want to be counted 😉  In the past I have used a 500mm lens on my camera which gets a little heavy when holding it for an hour! This year I just used it to take some photos 🙂

I like to keep a table of what I have seen including previous years data for my own interest.

  2017 2016 2015
Coal Tit 1 2 1
Blue Tit 2 2 3
Great tit 1   1
Long-tailed Tit     1
Blackbird 7 4 2
Woodpigeon 4 2  
Goldfinch 7 9 2
Blackcap 1 1  
Greenfinch   1  
Robin 1 2 2
Collard Dove 2 3 1
Starling 3 1 1
House Sparrow 3 1  
Dunnock 1   1
Pied Wagtail     1
Siskin 2    
Total no. of species 13 11 11

 I had a surprise visitor today; the Siskin.  I have seen them in the garden before but only on one occasion, I was just lucky they turned up during my count 🙂  15 mins after I had finished counting I spotted a Greenfinch on the feeder! There have been Long-tailed Tits in the last few days but sadly none turned up today. I’m so glad the Sparrowhawk didn’t turn up or it would have really altered my count! When it shows it can be seen sitting on the fence waiting for the Goldfinches, we found a pile of feathers a few weeks ago!

The RSPB also ask what other animals you see in the garden throughout the year, we have: Hedgehog, Fox and Slow-worm.

Below are a few record shots of some of the birds I counted…

RSPB Ham Wall – December 2016

Over the Christmas break I decided to take a trip to RSPB Ham Wall. Although I didn’t leave overly early it was still freezing and misty outside. After an hour and 20min drive to Glastonbury the mist had cleared and the sun bathed the wetlands.

I have only been to Ham Wall once before and that was in June so this time I decided to explore a little more of the site. It was also an excuse to keep warm! 

At one of the screens I was watching 6 Snipe, when the lady next to me asked if I knew what the smaller bird next to them was. She thought it was a Water Pipit, as she had heard one had been seen recently, so having a closer look and comparing it to an image I looked up on my phone we decided it indeed was a Water Pipit. This was the first Water Pipit either of us had knowingly seen. A great start to the day!

On the Loxton’s Marsh Trail there were Black-headed Gulls doing laps of the reeds. They were so predictable it was quite easy to get a nice shot of them. I quite like Black-headed Gulls they seem to have a lot of personality 🙂

I headed to Avalon Hide in the afternoon. On the walk there, there were signs that Deer had been sleeping in the reeds.  The hide is currently being used by a Barn Owl as it’s dining room so there are a lot of Starling feathers about! With the sun creeping just above the tree line the reeds seemed like they were made of gold. A great time for a Bittern to appear at the far side of the reed bed 🙂

I headed back outside at 3pm to get set for watching the Starlings. There were hundreds of people congregated so I stood a little away from the crowd. They first started to appear at 16:08, streams of them coming in from all angles, diving down into the reeds. The sound they make is lovely. Unfortunately there were no murmurations but the sheer number alone was a sight to see. Its definitely worth a visit. 

My full sightings list:
Wren, Robin, Snipe, Water Pipit, Shovler, Great-crested Grebe, Coot, Mallard, Cormorant, Little Grebe, Mute Swan, Grey Heron, Great White Egret, Black Headed Gull, Greylag Geese, Canada Geese, Kingfisher, Wigeon, Stonechat, Reed Bunting

Boxing Day 2016 – Visit to WWT Slimbridge

For a change of scenery on Boxing Day I headed to WWT Slimbridge with my parents. We have visited Slimbridge a number of times before, although not in the colder months and my Mum wanted to see the Bewick’s Swans in particular. So taking the back roads to avoid the Boxing day sales traffic we headed towards Gloucester. 

Even as an adult I buy grain to feed the birds. The Nene Geese came to greet us asking nicely for food; I lost my packet of food to my Dad who took to feeding them and every Moorhen he saw! We took a slow walk towards the Zeiss hide stopping for lunch at the picnic benches on route.  My parents aren’t birders so don’t like sitting in hides for long but during the periods of time they managed to sit still, I saw Roe Deer, a Curlew, Bewick’s Swans in the distance, a couple of Mute Swan and hundreds of Lapwing and Wigeon.  

Warm drinks were needed after a walk around the site, the restaurant was packed but I managed to get us a table near the window which was very fortuitous as I saw my first Grey Wagtail, so of course I grabbed my camera and headed outside for a record shot! 

Towards the end of our visit we headed to the Peng observatory, knowing we wanted to be there for the 4pm feeding to have a closer look at the Bewick’s Swans.  It is a nice place to sit and watch the bird’s slowly growing in number as they head in for feeding time.  It was lovely to see the birds following the wheelbarrow of food, there were about 30 Bewick’s, a real treat to witness and something I highly recommend seeing if you have time to stay till closing.

My full list of sightings:
Birds: Curlew, Bewick’s Swan, Mute, Swan, Tufted Duck, Lapwing, Wigeon, Black-headed Gull, Shelduck, Coot, Moorhen, Reshank, Jackdaw, Rook, Teal, Pintail, Grey Wagtail, Long-tailed Tit, Woodpigeon, Song Thrush
Mammals: Roe Deer