Big Garden Birdwatch 29-31 January 2021

The RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch is the worlds largest bird survey and has been running for over 40 years as a massive Citizen Science project (the largest in the UK), the results help us identify declines or growth in species such as the Song Thrush; in 1979 this species was firmly within the top 10 species, whereas by 2019 it had declined by 76%. Seeing the problem as soon as possible is the first step to putting it right – something that rings true in so many situations.


The aim of the day is to pick one hour over the three days, sit, watch and count. This whole activity pulls on my Nature Therapy heartstrings and calls out to me to take part and relish that hour of silent noticings. My first attempt this morning was slightly thwarted as the neighbour decided to start his cars up and leave them running for a fair few minutes! It didn’t put the birds off, but did put me off, so I settled down a few hours later when all was quiet and tried again – much more successfully I must say!

Snowy, bird feeding area
My feeding area in the garden - complete with a fat female pheasant!

It was – 8 first thing this morning, which had increased to a tropical -6 by the time I sat outside this afternoon, just on the edge of Grantown on Spey in the Cairngorms. I decided to have some comfort and sat in my car with the windows open which also meant I could be very close to the feeders, our garden visitors appear to be mostly quite confiding, except the Great Spotted Woodpecker which can be a bit more wary. The Coal Tits are the first to come, in large crowds bustling like a jumble sale crowd, rushing for the best seed. If you tried to count every single bird during the hour, you’d soon get in a fuddle, so you take your time and count the group; 5 Coal Tits then maybe a group of 7 and so on, I counted at most 11 on the feeders and so that was my result to submit – otherwise they’d all get counted 2, 4, 10 times over! The occasional Great Tit comes in, flipping bullies compared to the dainty Coal Tits, arguing with each other and really bring an attitude to the party. A couple of Blackbirds bicker overhead and settle in a nearby plum tree; a male and female, beginning their courtship maybe. A red flash brings a nervous woodpecker, it flits to a farther tree and eyes us worryingly, inching closer but not staying too long, in the distance I can hear one of its kin drumming loudly in the crisp winter air deep within the surrounding forest.


Winters emblem, plump, red-breasted Robins litter the snowy floor, picking up fallen seed along with a shy Dunnock and the angry Blackbirds from earlier, before they scatter as a ‘bouquet’ of Pheasants plough through, steamrollering anything within their path. They eat, they destroy, and they keep going to the next feeding station of the day. We have a healthy family of Red Squirrels that visit our garden and two of the crew chase each other around the berry tree trunks, barking and shouting at each other to stay away from their nutty prizes.


All in all, a great way to spend an hour and a lovely version of an invitation, “What are you noticing?” More info can be found on the RSPB website and if you didn’t join in this year, mark it in your calendars for 2022!


My Results Blue Tit 2, Coal Tit 11, Great Spotted Woodpecker 1, Robin 3, Blackbird 2, Woodpigeon 2, Pheasant 5, Great Tit 2, Dunnock 1 plus Roe Deer 1 and Red Squirrel 2