Big Garden Birdwatch 2021

Another year, another lockdown; or more cheerily – another year, another Big Garden Birdwatch! The perfect thing to do for an hour when you can’t leave home.

Saturday it pretty much poured with rain all day, so today seemed like a better birding day. It was still bloomin’ cold sitting there though for an hour and my derrière was pretty numb by the time I finished.  Still it was worth it to record a very respectable 34 individuals of 12 species.

Top of the abundance was, as usual, the house sparrow. I  counted at least 12 in one go, although I’m sure we actually have more than that. Joint second were the blackbirds and jackdaws – 4 of each. I can’t tell the difference between male and female jackdaws, but for the blackbirds there was one female and at least 3 males.

Most of the rest arrived in pairs – goldfinches, great tits, collared doves, wood pigeons, starlings and magpies, although I only seemed to manage to get photos of them one at a time.

And then there was a singleton blue tit, dunnock and robin. The robin was the most sociable of the whole bunch. He even landed on the camouflage netting right by my head – too close to even get a photo. As if sensing that he might be missing his photo op, he then obligingly hopped down to some stems in front of me and posed so I could get his good side. Of course there was still a twig in the way – isn’t there always?

The (almost) highlight of the whole hour came near the end when I think a sparrowhawk zoomed across the garden after a small bird. Unfortunately it all happened so fast that I couldn’t be sure that’s what I saw and I almost got tangled in the camouflage netting in my haste to stand up and get a better look. So although I’m about 80% certain it was a sparrowhawk, I wasn’t sure enough to include it in my birdwatch results. So close!

A bit disappointed that our wren didn’t put in an appearance, nor the long-tailed tits. And really disappointed that our male blackcap was a no-show too. He’s been pretty much resident outside our patio doors for the last 3 weeks, but today of course he chose to have the morning off. Just to prove it, here he is from a few weeks ago.

Submitting my data took a few goes as the RSPB website seemed to be struggling. Hopefully that’s a good sign and means lots of people have been doing the count.

Success in the end though and nice to know I’d contributed in a small way to another bit of citizen science. Talking of which, tonight happens to be my next slug collection night for the Slug Count project. It’s all go!

Spring in the garden

The Spring Equinox has been and gone already and I’ve been gathering video clips for weeks now with signs of spring. I blogged about the allotment last week, so this time it’s the turn of the Too Lazy garden proper. I’ve had the cameras out all over the garden and got so many videos it’s taken a while to sort through them; but here are some highlights from the last few weeks.

Our first hedgehog woke from hibernation and appeared on the trail camera at the end of February – quite early, but given the mild winter we’ve had, maybe not too surprising.


It wasn’t long before one became two and a second larger hedgehog appeared in the same part of the garden. This second one didn’t seem too keen to share the food with the smaller one and there were a few tussles the first night. I had hoped One-eyed Tim, one of last year’s hedgehogs, might have appeared by now, but neither of these are optically challenged, so I hope he’s just late coming out of hibernation.


The garden birds, in particular the blue tits, seem to be feeling the spring in the air too. Blue tits used to nest in our garden, but for the last few years, they seem to have turned their noses (or beaks) up at it and although regular visitors, they must be nesting elsewhere. I did get hopeful when the old nest box we’d stuck on the apple tree seemed to be getting a bit of attention:


Unfortunately despite repeated visits to check it out, they seem to have found it lacking in some way. They may not be favouring our garden for their nest, but they’re not averse to making use of the nesting material we’ve put out for them. I’d filled an old hanging basket with hay and moss raked up from the lawn and the blue tits wasted no time helping themselves to it.


In the absence of nest box footage, I thought I’d make the most of the hay/moss collection and try and get some different shots of this activity instead. First I tried putting the GoPro on a branch above the basket, which worked reasonably well.


I then had a go putting the camera inside the basket cage itself. The blue tits weren’t bothered by it at all, so I got some half decent shots of them tugging at the moss to get the best bits.


Last month I succumbed to the urge to get yet another camera for the garden – this time one trained exclusively on a feeder. We can live feed it to the living room, which is great, although most of the time we end up just watching peanuts swinging in the breeze. But I did eventually manage to get a brief clip of the blue tits – once again happy to avail themselves of anything on offer in the garden (except the nest boxes).


The blackbirds made an early start gathering nesting material at the end of February – or at least the female in this video clip did, the male seemed more interested in making sure we got his best side on film!


The squirrel wasn’t doing anything particularly spring-like, other than checking whether the hedgehogs had left anything worthwhile; but I can never resist the squirrels, so here’s his few seconds of fame too.


The water bath seems to have been coming into its own again now spring’s here too. This blackbird was making the obvious use of it by bathing and of course lots of birds just drink from it.


But one magpie in particular has been using it for something a bit different. He or she has been eating bits of the cat food that I leave out for the hedgehogs. Most of it is eaten straight down, but some pieces are perhaps too hard, so it has been dropping them in the bird bath, presumably to soften them up a bit.


So there’s plenty of activity in the garden already this year and that’s without even discussing the insects that are all starting to appear too (I’ll save them for the next blog post). I love this time of year when everything is optimistic with the promise of the summer to come; perhaps the wildlife in the garden feels the same?








30 Days Wild – Day 2

TWT 30 Days Wild_countdown_02Day 2 on the challenge and I feel a bit like a marathon runner (actually I’ve no idea what that feels like and probably never will!) just getting going and setting my pace so I don’t run out of steam. So with that in mind, Day 2’s activity was none too strenuous and involved dragging my lazy bones only as far as the garden. I did however have to get up BEFORE the crack of dawn, so still feel deserving of some kind of medal.

So the reason for getting up at such an ungodly hour – to listen to the dawn chorus. This is something that always seemed such a lovely thing to do (memories of Bill Oddie enthusing about it on past TV programmes perhaps), but somehow I’ve never quite achieved – the lure of the duvet has always been too strong. So 30 Days Wild felt like the time to finally do it.

Unusually, I was organised. A digital dictation machine was borrowed well in advance (couldn’t think how else to record it as my phone is from the dark ages) and a few practice runs attempted – not at ridiculous o’clock in the morning of course, but in more civilised early evenings. We live in a pretty quiet street, but you don’t realise how much noise there actually is until you start trying to record something relatively quiet like bird song. First attempts resulted in 30 seconds of a neighbour hammering something. Next one a dog barked incessantly. Third one sounded as if the Hell’s Angels had decided to do wheelies down our street. Fourth attempt was going fine until Chris came outside and announced we’d be having beans for tea – all duly recorded (I might have kept that recording if he’d said we were having something that sounded a bit more glamorous and foodie than beans!) At least they proved the sound recording worked.

Sunrise this morning was supposed to be about 5am here in Malvern. According to the RSPB website the chorus begins about an hour before sunrise, so by 4am I was up and out and sitting in splendid isolation in the garden (for some reason Chris declined to get up and join me!) Last night I’d been stressing a bit that I wouldn’t be able to identify the birds from their songs. I listened to various bird recordings online to try and memorise them – with little success. But as I got up this morning, I thought to hell with that – it’s way too early in the day to be stressing about anything, much better to sit back and just enjoy the birds as they come. I already pretty much know what birds we get in the garden and it seemed unlikely that a nightingale would suddenly start singing without me realising it!

Initially it seemed our garden was silent. I could hear birds singing in the distance but it was too faint to hear properly, let alone record. First noise that would have been audible on tape was a plane going over about 04:05 am – I didn’t even really think we were on a flightpath – just shows what you can notice when you’re alone in your garden in the dark! Gradually the bird song seemed to move closer – like a Mexican wave of tweeting washing over Malvern.

BlackbirdAbout 5 minutes later, the blackbird started up. I can say this with confidence as I could see him on top of next door’s roof. It was still pretty much dark, but he was singing his little socks off – and really loud. I know I’ve heard blackbirds sing before but I’ve never consciously sat and just listened to one – beautiful but definitely loud. Here’s a brief recording of him.

Once the blackbird had got going, more birds seemed to join in, although I couldn’t identify anything specific from the mix. I would have expected perhaps robins and the wren – if anyone can confirm whether these are on the next couple of audio clips, that would be great. Of course the main thing  you can still hear over-riding everything is the blackbird.


About 04:30 the bottom of the garden was filled with lots of cheaping voices – the sparrows had woken up. We are fortunate to have a lot of House Sparrows in the garden and they clearly all woke up together.


As I’m not normally up in the garden in the semi-gloom of pre-dawn, it had never occurred to me that bees might be up at that time too. I had always sort of assumed that they didn’t stir until it got warmer. But while wandering the garden with my microphone, I became aware of lots of buzzing around the raspberry canes – sure enough about half a dozen Tree Bumblebees were making the most of an early breakfast. They are just about audible on this clip.


The robin appeared on the fence about 04:45 and looked at me as if to ask “what on earth are you doing up at this time and does this mean  you’re going to feed me?” (and I did).

PigeonThe bigger birds were the last to get up. Just after I’d seen the Robin, I could hear the woodpigeons faintly in the distance. Just before 5am they finally came close enough to record, although their gentle cooing was rudely interrupted by a Jackdaw squawking.


As everyone in the garden now seemed to be up, I decided it was time for me to go back to bed. It was actually very relaxing sitting in the garden for an hour that early (once my body had got over the shock of being up!) With none of the usual modern day distractions, it was like some kind of sensory relaxation therapy to just sit and listen to the (mainly) natural sounds all around me. I might even be tempted to do it again!

Primroses 30 WEEDSIt’s Day 2 as well of my 30 Lazy Garden Weeds – this time the Primrose. It is a native plant and must surely be one of Britain’s most loved wildflowers and I doubt anyone weeds these out. Our garden in spring is a mass of these yellow clusters and the bees love them. They provide a much needed early season nectar source for the bees and they brighten up the garden no end. Even Shakespeare wrote about them in Midsummer Night’s Dream “And in the wood, where often you and I
Upon faint primrose-beds were wont to lie…”