I have something in common with Big Garden Birdwatch – we both turn 40 in 2019. A little bit of maths tells me I've taken part in 25 of the counts, but I know some people who have done every one since 1979! To celebrate this special anniversary Birdwatch, I’ve put together my Christmas wish list - the birds I’d most like to see in my garden on the Birdwatch.
Bramblings are here in the UK in good numbers this winter, but the best ones are the ones that visit your garden! (Ben Andrew rspb-images.com)
Number 1: a beautiful bramblingTop of my wish list is a bird that I don’t think it’s too much to ask for. It’s a relatively common and widespread winter visitor to the UK and visits gardens regularly. I’ve seen it in my garden before a few times and during autumn migration, its wheezy call can be heard some mornings as flocks pass over. It also happens to be one of my very favourite birds. However, I've never recorded one on a Big Garden Birdwatch. Please please, please can I have a brambling for my Birdwatch? Just one would do!
Nuthatches are a daily sight and sound at my workplace of RSPB The Lodge, but I've never seen one in my garden (image Ben Andrew rspb-images.com)
Number 2: a woodland wandererWe don’t have very much mature woodland in my village, meaning that the nearest nuthatches and marsh tits live a good couple of miles away from my garden. I’ve seen or heard 142 species of birds either in or from my garden, but these two relatively common woodland birds are not on the list. Could this Birdwatch be the time that a splendid nuthatch visits my birdtable for some tasty seeds or suet, or a dapper little marsh tit dashes in to our hanging feeders among the blue, great and coal tits? I’ll certainly be looking hard – after all, it’s been eight years with no joy, so it has to happen soon...
The secret ingredient for tempting redpolls into your garden is nyjer seed (Ben Andrew rspb-images.com)
Number 3: a riot of redpollsLots of redpolls arrived in the autumn and they’re busy searching for seeds in the treetops in our birch and alder woods, making their chuntering calls. As winter draws on, more and more start to visit gardens as natural food supplies dwindle. It’s another bird that visits my garden occasionally, and always visits the nyjer feeder, but to count one on a Birdwatch would be fab. Even better, if there was a flock of them…
Will it be waxwing winter? Early signs are promising - if not conclusive! (Andy Hay rspb-images.com)
Number 4: a waxwing winterA decent number of waxwings have arrived in autumn and although it’s too early to tell if it is going to be a big year, there are enough waxwings around to make me think having a flock visit my garden, isn’t too much to ask. We had a flock in the first week of living in our new house, but nothing since. That was back in 2011, so it feels like its time for these wonderful birds to pay us another visit. There's one critical factor in this though – will the blackbirds have eaten all the rowan and cotoneaster berries before the Birdwatch?!
Starlings are stunners when seen close up in the sunshine. I miss them. (Ben Andrew rspb-images.com)
Number 5: a swirl of starlingsStarlings have declined massively and my Birdwatch results over the years sadly mirror this. Do yours? I'd love to go back to the days when the sky darkened as a flock of 50+ of these noisy characters circled my garden before descending onto the feeders and bird table. I'd be happy just to be able to have starling on my list, but I'll putting out extra food in the weeks leading up to the count in the hope of pulling in a squabbling squadron of these seriously under rated and unappreciated birds.
And a special Christmas wish...I know I’m really pushing my luck with this, but how about something really rare? I know that other Big Garden Birdwatchers have been lucky with amazing birds. The Birdwatch has turned up some absolute “mega” birds including yellow-rumped warbler, American robin, black-throated thrush and little bunting. There was a really good arrival of rose-coloured starlings this summer and autumn, so I’m sure there are still plenty tagging along with the starling flocks. Opening my curtains and seeing one of those on my feeder would really make my day. It's like the Lottery. You know there's a chance of success if you play and you might even know someone who has hit the jackpot. It really would make my Christmas, and my Birdwatch, if this year it was my turn...
How will you do it?What’s on your wish list for Big Garden Birdwatch? Would any of my picks make your day, or do you have your sights set on something else? Big Garden Birdwatch 2019 registration opens on the 12 December, so get ready for the count on the weekend of 26-28 January and keep an eye out for news and updates. The January issue of Nature's Home magazine is full of exclusive content, including a feature on the mysterious migrants hiding in your garden this winter and there's lots more to come in our Notes on Nature e-newsletter...
Waxwings have become a bit more widespread over the last few days, so keep those fingers crossed. Most are in Scotland currently, but a definite new wave of arrivals occurred over the weekend. There are also reports from the middle of the country, so they are spreading out. Good luck everyone.
I'd like to see waxwings too, though I once did see one at the RSPB reserve at Saltholme, near Stockton on Tees. We live in the Teesside area and our garden has plenty of hedges, and backs onto fields - at least for now. Planning permission has been gained for these fields and another one across the end of our cul de sac - despite our protests specifically that the developers have no interest in their destruction of habitat for plants, or animals. We do get a wide variety of birds, but none of them appear with any apparent regularity - except for woodpigeons (my husband once counted 24 on the lawn), rooks and the odd crow, plenty of blackbirds and starlings, who nest in house eaves and use our pathway as a latrine! We've had redpolls, fewer greenfinches than ever, one pair of bullfinches dropped by for a quick snack, plenty of tree sparrows, some house sparrows, my favourites are the startlingly bright yellow hammers, arriving with chaffinches, greater spotted woodpeckers, long tailed tits, and the glorious sparrow hawk that frightens all the little birds into the hedges once completely messing up my BGBW - nothing once the sp. hawk had zoomed over - skilful hedge hopping and glorious. One of our favorite sightings are during the cold winter evenings, watching 7 or 8 wrens arrive one by one and fly through the greenhouse window and down to a perch where they snuggle up for the night, apparently keeping each other warm. I've only watched them arrive, but my husband has known something was spending the night in the greenhouse, but only discovered what last winter.
We were thrilled a few years ago to see a flock of waxwings in our tiny city centre garden. If we hadn't happened to look out of the window at that moment, we'd have missed their five-minute visit to eat the hips on our rambling rose. A couple of years later, seeing a neighbour looking up at our tree (and thinking it must be doing something dangerous) we went out to investigate, and saw again - the waxwings! We'd like to think they visit every year, and are so pleased to have seen them twice.
I'd like to see the (un) common sparrow. Never had one in my garden.
Mine would be lesser spotted woodpecker, hawfinch and ring ouzel. All fictional birds as far as I'm concerned after 30 years of bird watching!
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