If you live in the UK then you may have heard of the annual Great British Birdwatch run by the RSPB. Well there is another, which is even more informative. For quarter of a century the British Trust for Ornithology has been running a year round Garden Birdwatch, and there are now thousands of people contributing their sightings every week. This year, because of Covid-19, they are giving everyone free access to BTO Garden BirdWatch. Not sure how long free access will remain with the lockdown easing (bonkers decision) commencing, but if you have sight of a garden and can identify most common British garden birds by sight why not join in for as long as you can.

Greenfinch male

I have been contributing for the past seven weeks. Sometimes just sitting observing and other times darting to the window when I spot something on one of the feeders or the bird bath. It has been such a lovely way to while away time. It has also, as you can see from this post, encouraged me to get the camera out in the garden.

I have been struck by both the variety of species and how it varies from week to week. On average we see 15 different species in our garden each week, with some birds only appearing occasionally and others multiple times throughout the week.

I now have a notebook where I write down a list of what I have seen to date, and then as and when I spot them in the garden I note down how many there are at any one point. To date the most I have seen of anyone species is 8, when the starlings fledged.

There are clear instructions how to count and record, which is why even though I know we have robins nesting nearby I rarely record two since it has been rare for me to see more than one at any one time, likewise the blue tits.  And even though I have seen a kite and swifts overhead I cannot include them as they were not using the resources in our garden. 

Thanks to 25years of reported sightings  the BTO now has a wealth of information on how the populations of garden birds are changing. For example Goldfinches are now in the top ten of birds commonly seen in British gardens; 25 years ago they were only just in the top 20. The saddest change for our gardens is that Song Thrushes have dropped right down, although their numbers in the wider countryside remain stable.

There are now over 56,000 gardens registered. Some 250 gardens which were reporting in 1995 are still reporting today, and one person has submitted over 1,300 weekly reports. That’s almost a weekly report every week for 25 years!

You can also record sightings of butterflies, dragonflies, mammals and other insects. I’ve not been so great on the other sightings mainly because I am hopeless at identification, however I am getting better. Even Septimus gets counted under mammals. 

59 thoughts

  1. Nice photos of your bird visitors. We have a feeder and small bird bath ust outside our eat-in kitchen. We are always entertained. The squirrels and little chipmunks pick up anything birds drop from the feeder. We also have a humminbird feeder out as they are back now. Your garden looks like a haven for the birds.

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  2. Watching birds is a lovely pastime, and they seem to love us, humans, for creating birdbaths for them. Those are lovely bird photos, Becky. The garden looks very inviting; we were so fortunate to housesit in the UK for many who loved birds and gardening. Though I remember squirrels visiting to eat the bird food and all hell breaking loose when the dog found out 🙂

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    1. Thank you so much Suzanne.

      Our garden is overgrown but a lovely bit of greenery to sit out in. You wouldn’t know we are in a urban area sometimes!

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      1. It’s great when gardens create an oasis no matter how small or big it is. Crazy to think I was looking after an acre of gardens as well as an orchard now we have trees/flowers/herbs in pots which gives us a “garden” 🙂

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      2. Lots of trees and shrubs and I eventually had to pull out all the roses as it did become too much work. We sold it 13 years ago.

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  3. Hi Becky, this is delightful, and how wonderful to have such fabulous visitors in your garden. Thank goodness Septimus seems completely unfazed by their singing 🙂

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    1. Go for it Margaret . . don’t worry if you cannot identify everything as long as you can do majority. You don’t even need to count, you can just say you saw a blackbird or robin!

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      1. The real candidate is one particular blackbird who sings so loudly, morning, noon and night that we can hear him even through closed windows. He’s wonderful!

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  4. You have a great variety coming in! A great way to spend the day… my new pastime too! We have sparrows all day along with a few others and a red cardinal visiting occasionally playing hide n seek with me… beautiful clicks!

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  5. I’ve been hearing the song of one particular bird of late, Becky, over all of the others. It’s more of a musical scale than a song. I have no idea what type of bird it is, and when I try to see it, I can’t. It’s most cheery though!
    You have some great photos there, I love the Goldfinches.

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      1. I’ve just been listening to a few birdsong websites to see if I can identify the call. It isn’t a Song Thrush or a Nightingale, however! The sound is quite musical with a ‘boxy’ middle part, which is repeated often. The closest sound I heard was a Blackbird but that didn’t sound quite the same… and then there was a Blackcap which was also almost similar but not quite. There are a few Blackbirds around, so it’s likely to be that. Maybe it’s just its northern accent! 🙂

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  6. Now I understand when you said about being in the garden. Wonderful photos and a fantastic thing to do to understand the birds that are found in the garden 😀❤❤

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    1. They were definitely introduced to Australia . . . fortunately however they apparently have not had a detrimental effect on your native wildlife (unlike rabbits!)

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      1. And salvation Jane, and sour sobs and horses and goats… I’m sure it was the same in every newly colonized country, we’re just young enough to remember it.

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