My weekend started badly.

An evening with my neighbour was spoilt by the failure of our football team to progress to the next round of the FA Cup.

I used the excuse of a radio interview (a pre-record with LBC) to escape the misery after our opponents scored their third goal.  It was cathartic to have the chance to talk about the benefits of spending an hour watching birds in your garden before a segway into what we need to do to turbo-charge nature’s recovery in the UK. 

It put me in the right mood for my own birdwatch which I completed (on my own as my children like their beds) on Saturday morning.  Slow at first, I eventually recorded 23 birds from 11 species: house sparrow the most numerous, the long-tailed tits the most pleasing.

But I had to get out of the house at 9 as my son’s football team was in the semi-final of their Cup competition.  I watched them dominate the first 15 minutes but then concede a soft goal. 

I decided that I couldn’t deal with the tension so took myself off to the far corner of the field to complete my second birdwatch of the day.  I positioned myself under three silver birches and marked the boundaries of ‘patch’: along the hedge and on to the neighbouring and empty football pitch.  I was close enough to be able to keep an eye on my son’s game.

The park setting gave me a few different species including three corvids (jackdaw, crow and magpie) and then a redwing appeared.  That cheered me up as did seeing my son deliver a delightful pass for his teammate to score an equaliser.

There was now real excitement.  Would my park birdwatch beat my garden birdwatch?  And would my son’s team go on and win the game?

The answer was yes and no. 

Remembering that I could count the black-headed gull on the pitch in front of me and being greeted by a charm of goldfinch meant that I’d seen 12 species in my park birdwatch.  That was the trigger for me to fully focus on the match.  My son’s team had a great chance to win the game but squandered it before letting in two goals at the death. 

The result was the same as last night: a 3-1 defeat.  And like Arsenal, my son’s football team will have to wait another year for cup glory. 

I look forward to it, as I will #BigGardenBirdWatch 2020.

  • I've participated in the birdwatch for most of the 40 years since it's inception. 

    I'm happy to give up the hour, as I realise that true useful science has come from this simple activity. It may well be that the main aim is to increase interest in birds, and I have no issue with that.

    I'm always aware that every year, my recording does not provide what would be the same numbers if I was asked to give as an average figure for my garden.. I do go by the rules with no over-flying birds or birds outwith my garden being counted, This year, as an example, I recorded a total of 86 birds of 8 species, even in the truly atrocious weather here. I did not record, for instance, any Tits, any Robins, or the usual numbers of the now increasing Greenfinches, and that offends me somewhat. I do feel that perhaps I should really have cheated. I'm sure others feel the same way,