The Big Garden Birdwatch 2019
Men leave their huts,
because They're obviously definitely nuts!
Mad dogs and Englishmen
go out in the midday sun.....
It's that time of year! Three days during which all British bird lovers can get out into their gardens to spend an hour counting the birds! This annual, wonderful, event makes me think of that now quite seriously politically incorrect wonderful Mad Dogs and Englishmen song by Noel Coward.
You can catch him performing the song here:
It's a wonderful song. As was Sir Noel Coward.
Did you know that he has been referred to as the first English rapper? Did you know that he was a spy and was sent abroad to gauge and report on public opinion during the War? Did you know that he was finally knighted in 1970 (the first suggestion by King George VI of a knighthood was blocked by Churchill who was said to have disapproved on Noel Coward's "flamboyant" lifestyle, though he also cited a court case proceeding at the time as the reason for advising against the knighthood)? Did you know that his neighbour in Jamaica was Ian Fleming (another war spy), and that he turned down the role of the Bond Villain in Dr. No? Did you know that he started the turtle neck fashion fad? Did you know that even though he never learned to read or write music he wrote not just hundreds of songs, but also more than 50 plays, and short stories and poems and that he papered his loo with his song covers and called it his Music Room?
No? Well neither did I. We missed the bird count on the weekend because we were far too busy continuing our epic battle with the brambles, about which I will be writing in the future (it promises to be a riveting blog post).
So I have completed our bird count today, from the warmth of the kitchen. I don't have to go out into the garden, and so scare the birds, because over the last 5 years we have created bird feeding stations close to the kitchen windows so that we can watch the birds come and go at any time of day, despite the weather.
We keep the birds happy by topping up the fat balls and seeds every morning. In return we are rewarded with a constant coming and going from great tits, coal tits, blue tits, nuthatches, robins, dunnocks, a pair of great spotted woodpeckers, magpies, blackbirds and jays. In fact the birds have become so used to their regular food supply that when we forget to top up the feeding stations we have a blue tit which flies up and taps, with growing impatience, on the kitchen windows, to remind us of our dereliction of duty. Last year we ran a "scientific experiment" to find out what kind of seed our birds preferred. What that really means is that Mr P. and I had an argument, and then a bet, about the type of seeds our garden birds prefer. I was determined that the birds would prefer a nice healthy mixture of everything. Mr. P was adamant that they'd go straight for the sunflower hearts. And so they did.
But the bigger birds, particularly the great spotted woodpeckers, and jays, and magpies, prefer the fat balls. They peck away at the fat balls until they have made a proper mess (which is appreciated by the little birds, like the robins and dunnocks, which like to peck at food from the ground level. Then they fly off with big chunks of fat balls in their beaks, having depleted the daily supply of fat balls by midday. And that's when our little blue tit comes tapping on our window. As far as bird feeding goes we have also discovered that rather than pouring liquid fat down the sink (you are not supposed to do that!), or into glass bottles, it is incredibly easy to use up left over fat (mostly pork) from our cooking to make our own version of fat, or rather, coconut, balls. Here is the recipe, a la Jamie Oliver's 15 minute express recipes: Home Made Fatballs Recipe
1) Get all of your left over cooking fat (i.e.: lard). Soften in microwave if necessary. 2) Mix the fat with seeds. Add as many seeds as you like, but no so many that the fat stops sticking all of them together.
3) Let cool.
4) Press the mixture into empty coconut shells. And store in the fridge, if you have room, or in a pest and pet free cool zone. 5) Last but not least, don't forget to wash your greasy hands or your hands will be eaten by a pack of hungry doggies. And voila! Alfresco bird dining at the click of your fingertips. Or the tap of a blue tit's beak.
But back to the RSPB survey. And mad dogs and Englishmen.
According to the RSPB website, back in 1979 the RSPB joined up with Blue Peter (an iconic Children's TV show) and asked the children viewers to let them know which birds they saw in their gardens. The idea was so successful (the RSPB received 34 mail bags full of children's responses) that the experiment was repeated again the next year, and then again and again and here we are, 40 years later, with what has now become the world’s largest wildlife survey! Fortunately we are now able to record our survey results online, and about 500,000 British bird lovers take part in the survey every year.
What all that means is that for an hour about 500,000 British bird lovers sit down once a year, with their cup of tea, and their binoculars, and pens and paper, and they record the number and types of birds visiting their garden. And in my book that's a pretty good reason to love the British!
So without further ado, these are the birds Britain has seen in their gardens as of 10.30am today, and last year:
And here is my count of the birds which I saw this morning:
It's a relief that people are still seeing house sparrows. I've heard that they are in decline, and we certainly haven't seen any house sparrows so far this year. Not unless we are confusing a house sparrow with a dunnock, and that's entirely possible given that we are fairly new to not just gardening, but also ornithology.
But our resident favourite Great Spotted Woodpecker and Nuthatches have made plenty of fly-bys to fuel up for the winter:
Also, if you've missed this year's count, and you want to have a go next year, join our Facebook Group where we post up to date news, and reminders.
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