Birding in Isolation by Ginny Sibley

What strange times we are living in! We are in Lockdown in the UK with instructions not to go outdoors unless to shop for essentials or exercise once a day. I was in isolation for 4 weeks as had mild symptoms of Corvid 19 followed by a chest infection and placed on antibiotics. So I was very grateful for our garden.

We have a large garden of 1/3rd of an acre, which we have turned into a Home for Nature. Plenty of trees, hedging for sparrows, conifers loved by gold crests and greenfinches - all we are lacking is a pond. Over the course of the 35 years we have lived here, we have had over 50 species of birds either visit the garden or fly over. So two weeks ago on our first real day of sunshine I ventured to sit out and observe the garden. What was the most obvious thing was the lack of background noise. To my relief the light aircraft, which constantly plague our village with their loud over flying have been grounded and cars are no longer on a rat run through the hamlet. There was a crystal clear sound of bird song. From the variety of sounds emanating from our local Starlings, nesting under the eaves in the corner of the house, to the eerie mewing of the local buzzards soaring overhead. There was the cheeky call of ”a little bit of bread and no cheese” of the yellow hammers coming in to forage from the field adjacent, to the cooing of wood pigeons and collared doves. Then the rattle of mistle thrushes in the tree above, and the sweet song of the evening blackbird serenading at the end of the day. From a corner of the garden here is a sudden outpouring of joy from the little wren and the constant chirping of the chaffinch, blue tits and great tit yelling to parents to be a “teacher, teacher “ in this state of home schooling. Then I heard it, the unmistakable call from a distant tree, the loud shout of the nuthatch, unmistakeable and tuneful. It was sheer joy and stress relieving to sit and listen.

Then what can we see? We have several bug houses around the garden so to my delight we had a brimstone, peacock, small white, small tortoishell, and orange tip butterflies, flying around looking for their first nectar after hibernation. Then to my surprise with its erratic fluttering flight over next door’s garden and swooping over mine, was a bat flying in broad daylight. I think was a pipistrelle, which seemed to come from under the eaves of next door’s house. Blue tits and great tits nesting in our nest boxes including the

Sparrow’s terrace, as the Sparrows prefer to nest under our eaves by the privet hedge.

To our delight a red kite swooped low over the garden and I called out to the neighbour’s children who were delighted to see its acrobatics. I realised then I needed to have my camera to hand for another time.

The front part of the garden we have dedicated to a wild flower area. Over the last few years it has slowly begun to develop and we are pleased to say we host a bee orchid which being a single one takes some finding. This year so far we have cowslips and a Snake’s head fritillary which sadly we noticed an animal or bird had bitten its head off (possible one of our 6 grey Squirrels!)

Then last week I ventured on my first walk out of our garden. We walked along the country lane taking the short route out of the village towards the Turkey farm and back. I was hoping to add a corn bunting to my year list, but instead we did see and hear numerous skylarks, and meadow pipits, linnets, buzzards - we counted 5, and a red kite, Then a bird of prey flying in a straight and purposeful manner at speed over our heads and onwards towards the old A1, Ledsham and Fairburn. It had an S shape to the front wings and was larger than a sparrow hawk so could it have been a goshawk? Too quick to photograph. Up on the balancing pool we saw 5 drake mallard, 2 coots and a moorhen as well as one lonely little grebe. Then I disturbed 2 grey partridges as they whirled off into the distant hedgerow - disturbing one red-legged partridge along the way. In the fields around we saw one large deer was it a roe stag or an escapee of the red deer from Lotherton Hall? In the next field quietly strolling along, were three female deer - again they seemed large but were probably roe. They pricked up their ears and looked my way as I photographed them.

So being in Lockdown has its benefits and we are very lucky living where we do and having the benefit of a large garden. However we can all go out and sit just outside the house and listen out for the sound of nature - you may be surprised at what you hear.

Yellow hammer singing from our treetop.

Bat flying around the garden in daytime and landing on the roof.

Buzzard soaring overhead.

Large Deer in fields

3 Deer.

Linnet singing in hedgerow

Female Skylark

Male Skylark

Meadow pipit

Skylark ascending

Guess who is hiding in our Laurel?

  • Hi

    maybe there should be a birding in lockdown page :)

    I'm walking the fields at the end of my road and along a footpath near the river every morning from 6:45-8:15.

    So far spring is moving through on schedule:

    Blackcaps are in and Whitethroats ( both spp) Yellowhammers and Corn Buntings are singing in the hawthorn hedges, Yellow wagtailks fly over towards the crop fields.

    Last week Swallows and sand martins went through but no House Martins yet.
    Greenshank dropped in and a Peregrine and whimbrel flew over. LRPs are hanging about on the flood.

    Yesterday had SEO and Green and Common sandpipers on the a flooded field.

    Sedge warbler was singing this morning.


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