Monday, April 27, 2020

A Gentle Stroll - Stop And Stare.

We count ourselves fortunate that we live in Stalmine, a village less than a mile from the partly tidal River Wyre. A walk along country lanes leads directly to the Wyre salt marshes with paths that head south inland to Eccleston or north to the mouth of the estuary where the village of Knott End looks across to the once prosperous fishing port of Fleetwood. 

River Wyre, Lancashire 

There is little of the fishing industry left in Fleetwood. Fish now comes overland by truck and van where it is gobbled up by large wholesalers rather than fish landing by local trawlers that in turn provide jobs to town folk. Perhaps in 2021 when Britain regains its rightful fishing waters we may see a revival in the fortunes, finances and lost skills of the many coastal towns like Fleetwood. 

Fleetwood from Knott End 

After a number of weeks with little birding I headed towards the river, where I hoped to avoid crowds and vigilantes who might report me on social media for stopping occasionally and not walking briskly. I strolled alongside hedgerows, trees and farmland where I knew there would be birds to watch. For goodness sake, what is a walk without a stop and a stare? 

Just down the lane I found my first young Blackbird of the year as it scuttled noisily along neighbours’ fences. And it sat there until a male Blackbird came along to investigate the clicking of the camera. The youngster was so recently out of the nest it still had the remains of the egg tooth. The egg tooth is a small, sharp, protuberance used by youngsters to break or tear through the egg's surface during hatching. 



Buzzards are common over our house as they nest most years less than half-a-mile away. Without fail their circling flights above attract Buzzards from surrounding areas both from their calls and through their phenomenal eyesight. It’s not uncommon to have seven, eight or nine Buzzards overhead whereby if their calls don’t make me look up, the calls of the tormenting gulls surely will. This morning was three, yesterday seven. There was a Sparrowhawk too when a Starling gave the game away with a warning call as the hawk circled once or twice then flew off towards another copse. 



Dunnocks, Wrens and Blackbirds were everywhere but just a single Whitethroat along lanes lined on both sides by trees and hedgerows, an ideal habitat for the usually noisy summer migrant. I’m hoping it’s just the northerly winds of the last few days that have held up the Whitethroats rather than a wholesale loss on their perilous journey. 

At New House there are always House Martins where seven or eight pairs nest every year without fail. As yet no martins and passing Swallows have been few with just six or eight today. Willow Warblers too are strangely missing, a species that often sings from local gardens on first arrival until they find their preferred place along the lanes. There was a singing Chiffchaff in the same spot by the old damson trees and where I’ve heard one in past years but rarely follow up as the season progresses. 

Compensation came with an obliging Sedge Warbler alongside a reedy ditch. It sang from inside the tree, at the very top and from down in the ditch as I followed it up, down and around about. This proved a morning of Sedge Warblers and a count of seven along the way. 

 Sedge Warbler

Sedge Warbler 

Further down the lane are gorse bushes and fields that once grew crops of vegetables but now grow grass. There’s no winter stubble with now zero counts of Yellowhammers or Tree Sparrows and very few Chaffinches but there are a few Lapwings that scrape a living on marginal land before the first cuts of silage. There was another Lapwing sat on eggs and the one below acting very much like the concerned parent. 


At the river I surveyed the undulating marsh that has dozens if not hundreds of tidal channels, ditches that are both deep and dangerous to the unwary or inexperienced. The bund allows a glimpse in some of the closer channels where I found several Redshank, a Greenshank, several Curlew, two Whimbrel and a Reed Bunting. 

Burrows Marsh, River Wyre 

The Whimbrel flew quickly away with their characteristic and unmistakable call of seven rapid whistles. Why the Whimbrel always gives seven calls but not five, six, eight or nine is not entirely clear but is a unique call that once learnt is never forgotten. 


I retraced my steps back home with a Kestrel, Buzzards still above but no new Whitethroats. 

Back soon with more stop and stare. And there’s rain in the forecast, following an April that may be the driest on record.  There’s a novelty. 

Saturday, April 25, 2020

Locked In Bird Book

Even at ten o'clock this morning the sun was pretty hot.  I cut the grass back and front then settled down for a while to read a few chapters from one of my favourite ever bird books - Ten Thousand Birds: Ornithology since Darwin.

I first reviewed this book for Princeton Press back in early 2014.  Here's a copy of that review for any readers yet to discover this superb read.


I was thrilled to receive for review by Another Bird Blog a copy of Ten Thousand Birds: Ornithology since Darwin, due for publication by Princeton University Press on 26th February 2014. 

“Eager anticipation” barely described my six month or more wait for this book, the most recent and potentially the best in a line of books devoted to the history of ornithological study. I noticed immediately the dust jacket bearing praise and recommendation from the likes of Ian Newton, Walt Koenig, Jeremy Mynott and Frank Gill; so after my marathon wait would the book live up to the expectations of a bog-standard, open minded, always curious, but mostly unscientific bird watcher? 

Ten Thousand Birds: Ornithology since Darwin - Princeton University Press

The Preface quickly sends readers to Appendix 1, a list of approximately 24 “histories of ornithology”, very few of which actually hold information of late twentieth century advances in the study of birds, most of the books dealing with early ornithology up to the mid-twentieth century at best. Through a simple but highly effective line-graph heading inexorably north the authors display how ornithology has exploded since 1960 and continued to advance during the millennia - “Since Darwin published The Origin of Species in 1859 we estimate there have been no fewer than 380,000 ornithological publications. In 2011 there were as many papers published on birds as there had been during the entire period between Darwin’s Origin and 1955”.

This sets the scene for the pages which follow, a comprehensive exploration and analysis of ornithology during the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries, a riveting, entertaining, enlightening and frequently inspirational read. It is the history, science, art, and where necessary the politics of ornithology since Darwin to present day, each themed chapter skilfully leading the reader through the years.

The Preface describes how the authors Tim Birkhead, Jo Wimpenny and Bob Montgomerie set about deciding the book’s scope and approach and whether that should be chronological order, one based upon the “top” ornithologists from Darwin to date, or one written around topics. Wisely they chose the latter approach whereby the 11 topics start at the beginning with Yesterday’s Birds and the first fossil discovery of Archaeopteryx and finish at Page 423 with Tomorrow’s Birds and a graphical timeline for conservation study, a chapter devoted to a future of ornithology heavily focused upon the preservation of birds.

In between those two poles come compelling historical accounts discussing and describing themes such as Origin and Diversification, Birds on the Tree of Life, Ebb and Flow, Adaptations for Breeding, Form and Function, The Study of Instinct, Sexual Selection and Population Studies.

The chapter titles give little away as to their contents and might fool a reader into thinking the text to be the dry and dust that history is reputed to be. Far from it, each and every chapter makes for engaging, exhilarating and often exciting reading encompassing the day-to-day science, the exploration of ideas, the trials and tribulations of a workaday ornithologist and the sanity or otherwise of the early collectors whose egos or lust for fame led them to visit dangerous realms.

I very much liked the topic based approach of the chapters, the main advantage being that each section can be read in isolation without detriment to the overall understanding and enjoyment of the whole book. I don’t recommend trying to read this book from cover to cover in one go, or even in a week or more, it is far too good to rush through, more one to savour slowly, a piece at a time.

Each chapter opens with a superb coloured plate from artists such as Raymond Ching, Robert Bateman, Eric Ennion, Robert Gillmoor or Rodger McPhail to set the scene, and within the first few pages a handy at-a -glance graphical timeline to indicate the contents. I recommend that to fully appreciate where the ensuing pages will take them, a reader study the timeline summary before embarking upon the chapter.

Graphical Timeline from Ebb and Flow -Ten Thousand Birds: Ornithology since Darwin

As is my particular mind set, I headed to the first chapter “Yesterday’s Birds” to learn more about work on the origins of birds and then made a bee-line for the chapter “Ebb and Flow” to satisfy my interest in migration. As a sampler for blog readers and those already adding the book to their wish-list I have summarised the two chapters below.

Yesterday’s Birds reminds us that right up to the present day the world of birds never lacks controversy or political intrigue, a world where too often the goal of scientific study takes second place to personal aggrandisement. This chapter takes the reader from the first Archaeopteryx fossil discovered in 1855 and then through the “Bone Wars” to the present day where 11 Archaeopteryx specimens exist alongside recent revelations of colouration in fossilised feathers. Along the way the story relates amongst other things how a newly discovered specimen of Archaeopteryx insured for a million pounds found its way into a battered cardboard box, and how claims of Archaeopteryx fakery aimed at ornithologists by respected scientists from unrelated areas of science was played out in the popular press of the “enlightened” 1980s.

Archaeopteryx lithographica in LIFE magazine c 1959 - Ten Thousand Birds: Ornithology since Darwin

The section Ebb and Flow begins with the pioneering work of William Eagle Clarke and Studies in Bird Migration of 1912, finishing with the remarkable and only recent discovery that Bar-tailed Godwits fly from one end of the earth to the other in a single 175 hour non-stop 6500 mile flight. In between there’s the celibate, obstinate, but devoted to bird study Alfred Newton, Christian Mortensen and his early bird ringing. There's Thomas Alerstam and Bird Migration, Fair Isle, Ian Newton’s Ecology and Bird Migration, Gwinner and Berthold and their studies of Sylvias, and much, much more.

It was in Ebb and Flow that I found an autobiography of the great Peter Berthold and how at the age of ten he was illegally catching Great Tits when he came across one ringed by an accredited scheme, a crucial experience which led to him joining the German Ornithological Society and to finally reach his “true heaven of ornithological research”. The rest, as they say, “Is History”.

Most chapters are dotted with these personal autobiographies, tales which make for entertaining and often amusing vignettes, sprinkled as they are with descriptions of the writer’s ornithological awakening and their later adventures in the search for knowledge.

I’ll quote from a couple here as examples of how wide ranging, stimulating, simply down-to-earth and not without humour this book is. But perhaps only by going out and buying the book will blog readers discover the name of the self-confessed birdy beginnings of the now highly respected ornithologist below.

“I was an amorphously nerdy, science-oriented and myopic kid without any clear direction. Before birds I was passionately engaged in memorising unusual facts from the Guinness Book of World Records … I got my first pair of glasses. Within six months of the world coming into focus I was bird watcher. I never looked back or even considered any other option in my life”

Or Nick Davies from my own part of the world, and an extract which as I read it caused an immediate lump in my throat. “One of my earliest memories is making a hide out of deck chairs and using operas glasses to watch chaffinches. We lived thirteen miles north of Liverpool and were surrounded by wildlife. Pink-footed Geese used to fly low over our house and I have worshipped them ever since”.

As the authors state early in the book, “Although bird watching was a pre-cursor of scientific ornithology and many ornithologists began their careers as bird watchers, this book is not a history of bird watching.” Well hooray for that, and the advice from Richard Feynman US Physicist, Writer and Educator (1918-1988) in the section entitled “Afterword”.

"You can know the name of a bird in all the languages of the world, but when you’re finished, you’ll know absolutely nothing whatsoever about the bird….. So let’s look at the bird and see what it’s doing- that’s what counts. I learned very early the difference between knowing the name of something and knowing something."

Silver Gulls on a Tasmanian Beach - Princeton University Press

There are over 150 mixed illustrations, charts and photographs dotted around the text, many of them black and white pictures of the individuals or groups of ornithologists featuring in the text, pictures so personal that they may well have originated from family albums. Others show ornithologists with their charges the birds, or show them engrossed in experimentation, exploration or simply posing for the historic record.

I could go on to describe and praise this brilliant book, picking out some of the simply wonderful stuff within but I would prefer that blog readers discover it for themselves.

At Princeton University Press, read about the original motivation for the book, the authors, the artists who provided the superb plates, but most of all sample some of the superbly crafted writing.

Chestnut-mandibled Toucan - from Ten Thousand Birds: Ornithology since Darwin

I imagine that Ten Thousand Birds: Ornithology since Darwin is a book which will be bought by every professional or amateur ornithologist the world over. Almost certainly it will be on a wish list of many, many amateur and professional naturalists, whether their speciality is birds, bees, butterflies or other more esoteric disciplines.

It is a book which should be bought and read by every serious bird watcher, but as is today’s focus on instant thrill, it may not be. I sincerely hope that my praise will influence some who may not otherwise have done so to buy this book; better still that a young person may somehow find this book the inspiration they need to follow a career in science and ornithology in particular.

As we have come to expect from Princeton University Press the fit and finish of Ten Thousand Birds: Ornithology since Darwin is immaculate, and of simple but understated quality. When I looked at the selling price I was amazed to see that Princeton University Press marks it up at £29.95 or $45, while at the same time allowing Amazon to knock it out for closer to £21 and its dollar equivalent.

Now I know nothing about the economics of the production, publication and sale of books but after studying the contents of Ten Thousand Birds: Ornithology since Darwin, I can only think that Princeton has either done their sums wrong or are adopting a “Pile ‘em high, Sell ’em cheap” strategy.

Whatever, it’s simply the best value for money bird book out there and at those prices there will be a huge demand for this book on 26th February. So my advice to readers of Another Bird Blog is clear. Place an order now, you won’t be disappointed.


Six years later, a browse through the book with a couple chapters devoured, is my opinion the same?

You bet. What a tremendous book. It's just the job to inspire every birder to get out there and do it just as soon as we can.

The price may have increased a little with inflation but at $45 or £38 from Princeton Press this book is still amazing value.


In 2015 this book won the Association of American Publisher PROSE Award in History, Science, Medicine & Technology.

Linking today to Eileen's Blog and Anni's Blog.    

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Birdy Song

Today we heard from TUI. Our holiday to Skiathos in May is officially cancelled. 

The good people of Skiathos and Greece as a whole suffer yet again after the Thomas Cook fiasco of 2019.  With luck we will be able re-book our holiday for May 2021 and so inject some cash into the island economy. 

Here’s a video of Skiathos scenes with a favourite song entitled “Wings” and sung by Birdy.

I dedicate this post to all our friends in Skiathos, especially The Family Mathinou at Agia Paraskevi, Costas and Efie at Spiti Oneiro, Dream House. Also - Nikos, Mum, Speri, Tina and Eleni at Maistrali, Christos at Kohyli, and Nikos & Julian at Platanias. Not forgetting all the other brilliant people, too many to mention, who make every Skiathos holiday so wonderful. 

In Skiathos 

Ta léme sýntoma. See you soon folks.

Monday, April 20, 2020

House Sparrows – Who Cares!

For today’s post I reproduce a beautifully written piece about the House Sparrow. The article first appeared in The Irish Times in March 2001. So insightful and relevant is the piece still, and so little has changed, that it could have been penned just yesterday. To break the text a little I thought to include my own photographs; and then I discovered I don’t have too many of Passer domesticus, the House Sparrow. How sad is that? 

The Sad Decline of the Street-wise Sparrow. Michael Viney - The Irish Times March 17, 2001. 

You'd swear the sparrows hadn't eaten for a month, the way they go at the nuts: the thrust of the neck, the roadhammer bill, a shudder of effort right down to the tail. Beside them, the goldfinches are positively dainty at table, not to mention far better dressed. 

That may not be fair. Granted, there were mornings in the snow when a half-dozen Technicolor goldfinches swinging on the feeder made a picture for a calendar, but a really close inspection of a cock house sparrow in spring finds a pleasing enough attire. This is when the white tips of its breast-feathers wear off, to uncover the rich black bib. A smart, dove-grey crown to the head, a crisp weave of chestnut and buff in the wings make up quite a distinctive logo for a little brown bird. 

People are beginning actually to look at the house sparrow, now that it's disappearing. Stories of its decline in Ireland's cities and suburbs are matched to "catastrophic" losses in London and Glasgow. Twenty-year declines are reported in much of western Europe, and even in North America, from Quebec down to Florida. One big study near Lake Constance in Germany found sparrows down by 23 per cent in the 1980s alone. 

House Sparrow 

Sparrows are such a diverse tribe, the evolutionary scientists' term of "adaptive radiation" might have been made for them. Our own house sparrow, Passer domesticus, is just one of 20 species spread across the world and itself has a dozen different races. Some of their names - P.d. niloticus, persicus, biblicus - hint at the ancient heartland where bird and man evolved together. 

In the fertile crescent of the Middle East, sparrows were seed-eaters, feeding on the grasses that the first farmers selected into cereals. As cultivation spread, and hunter-gatherers settled on the land, the sparrow kept them company, all the way, eventually, to Ireland one way and Siberia the other. No fewer than 14 of the world's 20 species now live happily alongside people and nest in holes in their buildings. 

In Ireland, P. domesticus probably had its hey-day in the early 19th century, when the population was highest, the towns had the most horses, and even the west of the island was rich in patches of oats and potato-ridge weed seeds. At the century's end, Richard Ussher found the sparrow "spread throughout Ireland to the remotest coasts, and delights in the congested districts where the numerous thatched cabins afford it comfortable homes". Ireland's sparrows shared in the decline that followed the replacement of the horse by the car and tractor. But recent decades have seen other trends working against them: the end of the west's small oatfields; of farmyard hens and ducks and their dishes of mashed potato and scatterings of grain; the mowing of grass for silage before it seeds; the ploughing-in of autumn grain stubbles, the use of herbicides to rid field margins of seeding weeds. 

Many of these changes wove together in the 1970s, which is when the wider decline of the house-sparrow began to take effect. In the New Atlas of Breeding Birds published in 1993, the number of empty circles in the west of Ireland and small-farm Scotland was quite striking. 

House Sparrow 

Currently, BirdWatch Ireland's countryside breeding bird survey finds the sparrow nesting in only 40 per cent of the squares under census. And in its regular garden bird survey, the sparrow has dropped four places in the past four years. Now Mary Toomey, of the Department of Zoology in Trinity College, Dublin, has taken on a special study of the Irish sparrow in its natural habitats. 

It's in the cities that its collapse seems most noticeable, and this invites its own speculations - cats, for example. The Mammal Society of the UK recently analysed the records of what was killed or captured, over five months, by 964 cats. Among their 14,000 prey items, which included weasels, frogs and bats, were 961 house sparrows. An earlier study, in an English village, found that cats accounted for almost a third of sparrow deaths in one year. 

But the impact of predators does not impress J. Denis Summers-Smith, the British engineer who has studied sparrows for 50 years, as an important explanation. Not even the undoubted increase in urban and suburban sparrowhawks seems to him to have much bearing on the "catastrophic" inner-city declines. 

Some conjecture that these declines have coincided with the introduction of lead-free petrol, with its special additives, or that the particles in diesel exhaust may block the sparrows' capillaries. But the picture of a sudden inner-city collapse could be misleading. The real stronghold for the sparrow has been the suburban garden, and the dispersal of surplus young from suburban nests may have masked a decline both in the city and the countryside. 

For Summers-Smith, the big pressure on Passer domesticus has to be food - not so much the fall-off in year-round seed supply as in the insect food needed by the sparrow nestlings for the first critical days of their lives. Perhaps, by helping to kill off the arthropods - the insects, spiders and crustaceans - traffic fumes are working to make cities unlivable for these once street-wise little birds. In this respect, he suggests, we should think of the sparrow as the modern equivalent of the miner's canary. 

House Sparrow

House Sparrow 

On our Mayo acre, at least, neither insects nor grass and weed seeds are any problem. Our little colony of a dozen or so sparrows built up quickly a few years ago, drawn by the winter nut-feeders, and will clearly be with us for the rest of our days. They have a special fondness for the thorn bush that leans above the septic tank and gather there for sessions of "social singing" on winter afternoons, a disyllabic Greek chorus drifting in the wind. 

Now, the chirruping is more scattered: a communication between partners. One lifelong pair are already well ensconced in the hole they used last year, under the ridge tiles of the porch; others find niches in the wood-shed. If I put up nest-boxes, tits and sparrows would compete for them and the sparrows, probably, would win. There is a critical size of hole that excludes them (32 mm), but who, in these changed days, would want to know that?

House Sparrow


For the current state of play of the House Sparrow I recommend a read of The British Trust for Ornithology

Or maybe the story about The Most Common Bird in The World at Smithsonian US

Saturday, April 18, 2020

Back In Time

Three more weeks in captivity is the sentence. While we’re waiting for the starting pistol here’s an earlier post of Another Bird Blog from June 2017. The day promised a visit to the Bowland Hills, “England’s Answer to Tuscany”, about 20 miles away from the Flat Fylde coast where I live. 

With luck there will be a chance to revisit the hills in June 2020 for what is a highlight of any birding year. 


I took lots of pictures up in Bowland this morning, almost 400, easily packed onto half of an SD card. I know there are some who refuse to abandon the traditional 35mm film photography, but give me digital photography, computers and Photoshop any old day.

It was a morning of waders again with a number of Snipe on show, plus Redshanks and Oystercatchers with young. I even managed a picture of the very shy Red Grouse. Other highlights of the morning included two Ring Ouzel, Turdus torquatus –“the mountain blackbird”, and at least one Cuckoo.

Click the pics for a closer look.

Ring Ouzel 

At this time of year Redshanks are always on the lookout for predators and will shout endless warnings from a prominent place advising their young to stay out of sight.



Oystercatchers do the same. It’s not that they like to pose for the camera, their parental duties are foremost in their reaction to the wound down window of a vehicle.



Red Grouse 

The Red Grouse is an unmistakable bird - plump and round, with a gingery-red body as its name suggests. Found on upland heath, it is under threat from a nationwide, dramatic loss of these habitats.

Red Grouse

Snipe seemed especially active this morning whereby I saw 8/10 individuals in poses, behaviour or voice that suggested they also have young.







A barely fledged Redshank  had quickly learnt about using dry stone walls as a parent looks on.


Redshank chick


Pied Wagtails and Meadow Pipits are probably the two most common and conspicuous birds in these parts. Sadly, the Lapwing population has tumbled for many years.

Pied Wagtail 

Meadow Pipit 


Bowland, Lancashire

At Langden there's a memorial stone to airmen killed in the Second World War that makes for sombre reading at anytime.

War Memorial - Langden, Bowland 

That's all for today. Come back soon for more birding, photographs or ringing with Another Bird Blog.


April 2020. Update to that Red Grouse. 

Torching heather, popular with gamekeepers but bad for the environment, is now outlawed in several upland areas of northern England The controversial practice of setting heather-covered moorland on fire, carried out by gamekeepers to create more attractive habitats for grouse is now banned on more than 30 major tracts of land in northern England. 

Heather Burning - Getty images

"Three large landowners have confirmed that their tenants are no longer allowed to burn heather routinely. The ban is a blow to grouse shoots, which burn older heather to make way for younger, more nutritious plants for grouse to feed on, but environmental groups say the practice harms the environment. Research by the University of Leeds has found that burning grouse moors degrades peatland habitat, releases harmful altering gases, reduces biodiversity and increases flood risk 

The issue has been thrown into sharp relief by the coronavirus outbreak. Yorkshire Water and United Utilities have said that all burning on their land must now cease until further notice. 

The National Trust said: “We are keen to alleviate pressure on the emergency services, and are working with estate managers and tenants to ensure any burning is stopped immediately.” The move follows requests from emergency services and local councils, which fear that burning increases the risk of wildfires, and that fumes might affect people suffering from Covid-19."

Linking this post to Eileens Blog and Anni's Blog in North America. Give them a visit. 

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Garden Top Ten

Thanks to the Wuhan Flu and house arrest it seems we are all to become garden birdwatchers until further notice. 

Just in time then to read of the latest results from the RSPB's Big Garden Birdwatch, an event held over the weekend of 25-27 January 2020 when nearly half a million people counted almost eight million birds. It made this year’s Birdwatch one of the biggest ever. 

The RSPB even produced a Top Ten, a list that depending upon a particular location may not equate to all gardens but represents a combined average result from the whole of England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales. 

Here they are in one to ten order; a list to bring tears to eyes of WhatsApp “bird news” groups. Not a single “scarce or rare” among them. In the archives of Another Bird Blog I found a picture for each of the species, useful ID pointers for those who have little or no time for common birds. 

The figure in brackets is a guesstimate of the top ten in my own garden for an average January day. In our garden, Magpie is replaced by Dunnock, a much nicer prospect. Magpies aren’t around because I chase them off as soon as they appear:

1. House Sparrow (10)
2. Starling (8)
3. Blue Tit (5)
4. Woodpigeon (2)
5. Blackbird (3)
6. Goldfinch (1)
7. Great Tit (4)
8. Robin (6)
9. Long-tailed Tit (9)
10. Magpie (0)
10. Dunnock

House Sparrow 


Blue Tit 




Great Tit 


Long-tailed Tit


The RSPB Top Ten of the changes little from 2019, with the top three birds the same as last year. Again, the Number One spot is taken by the House Sparrow, making it first for seventeen years running. Meanwhile the House Sparrow is nowadays an uncommon visitor to our ample sized semi-rural garden. Here the House Sparrow struggles to even hit the charts, despite the RSPB report suggesting that their numbers appear to have increased by 10% in the last ten years. 

The RSPB detect movement at fourth and fifth, with the Woodpigeon moving up to four and, last year’s number four the Blackbird falling to five. This is not surprising given the highly adaptive pigeon’s abundance here in Stalmine that gives the species an easy runner-up place in our garden list. This commonality is explained by a nearby mix of farmland, many trees, thick hedgerows, tolerant residents and few shooters. 

Small birds like Long-tailed Tits (up by 14% on 2019), Wrens (up 13%) and Coal Tits (up 10%) counted well during a mild, wet winter that came with very few frosts and little snow. The 14% for Long-tailed Tits also accounts for it remaining high on our local list as a past breeding species in the berberis bush; and a regular visitor likely to nest again. 

The report showed that Chaffinch dropped from the top ten down to number 11. This placing reflects very recent news that this once abundant farmland bird is the latest species in trouble through agricultural changes and over-building on green land and woodland edge. Sadly the Chaffinch is no longer a regular in our own garden. 

Losers out this time included Song Thrush way down at 20th in 2020, seen in just 9% of all gardens. Compare this to earlier Big Garden Birdwatches of 1979 -2009 when the Song Thrush made a top ten appearance in every year. In our garden, the once common Song Thrush is both "scarce and rare".  

It's a surprise the Goldfinch doesn’t even make the RSPB top five when here in Stalmine it is far and away the most common garden bird at any time of year. Perhaps the Goldfinch is not yet a city bird where many of the Big Garden Birdwatchers reside? 

Greenfinch is another big loser over the span of the Big Garden Birdwatch, a reflection of a major nationwide decline in its population. It came in at 18th and was seen in just 14% of gardens, this itself a worrying drop of 8% on 2019. We have a pair of Greenfinches in the garden so we count ourselves rather lucky in many ways. 

And the cherry blossom smells just wonderful. 

 Cherry Blossom


At least the good weather means we don’t sit in in the house and watch TV.  I’m told there are still people who pay a TV Licence fee for the privilege of having their intelligence insulted!   

Meanwhile, the Government is in a “damned if they do, damned if they don’t” situation.  A relaxation of the lockdown advice will be pounced on by TV and newspaper media and used to whip up even more public hysteria.  The effect this media-generated madness is having on an already browbeaten population has been leapt upon as an excuse for a monumental power grab by the illiberal left, forever eager to bring down an elected Government.  

Back soon with Another Bird Blog and tales of The Great Escape.

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