Last weekend, on the instructions of the RSPB and the BBC so who was going to dare decline, the nation counted its birds. For an hour of our own choosing on either the Saturday or the Sunday we were to sit peering into our gardens cataloguing the wee wing-ed beasties as they dropped in for a visit. Robins – 2 of, Collared doves – 3 of, Sparrows – 4, no make that 5 of, Blue Tits – 2, 5, 3, DAMN keep still will ya! Starlings? Who’s here for Starlings?
The instructions were to watch only for an hour and to list only the maximum number of any given species present at the same time so as not to count the same bird repeatedly. Ok, easy enough you’d think but what if you don’t know your House Sparrow from your Dunnock? Your Coal Tit from your Great Tit? And then there’s the female of each species which, frankly and especially without glasses, ALL look like sparrows. I bet there’s no one who didn’t cheat. I bet there were folk still sitting up at 2 a.m and claiming to have seen thirty six ravens, a Charm of Goldfinches, and a pair of Barn Owls in the same time slot.
My garden is quite shrub-intensive. Some would call it over-grown, I call it habitat. In the middle, up near my window, is the pond, pergola, table, chairs and now infamous parasol. The birds dart out from the borders, grab a chunk of seed or a raisin, and dart back again. So that’s ONE Robin on the list. Two Blue tits and an unspecified finch arrive en group and then disappear off left while another group appears from the right. This can’t be the same group can it? Surely I can count them as separate? Meanwhile, from the rustlings and flutterings in the branches each side, I know there’s an entire flock of feathered census-dodgers just out of range and deliberately pacing its arrival in the open so as to depress my figures! On a good day, I see wood pigeons, doves, wrens, long tailed tits, greenfinches, goldfinches, and the usual coterie of blackbirds, starlings, sparrows and thrushes. On a bad day it’s the heron after my fish. But on census day there was barely a simultaneous peep and so my list was quite impoverished which means that, if they do with the data the converse of what doctors do with your reports about your alcohol intake, I’ll be down to next door’s budgie through binoculars if I’m lucky.
Today, with the new feeding station in place (one arm of which is upside down so I’ll have to dismantle it again; I’m a girl – don’t expect me to match patterns to objects please and then mentally rotate one of them to fit the assembly), my population of avian hangers-on has undergone an exponential increase. Knowing they are not being counted, they are out there in gangs, lingering on the table, pottering about on the bee house, dangling from the peanut feeder, and posing on the tail of the metal scorpion bought at a craft fair and now coated in Hammerite to stop its legs falling off. I want to retract my submission, send photographic evidence, have my scores reviewed. I want justice damn it!
Photos from anonymous internet sources.