As the world shuts down around us the uplifting role that wildlife plays in our lives becomes more vital than ever. So, for my own sanity as much as anything, I’m going to keep a daily diary of what I find around my garden. Photograph the wildlife you can see from your window or in your garden and post your pictures on the ‘Sussex Wildlife Trust Nature Table’ page.
At 10:00 this morning dozens of people stopped worrying about everything that's going on in the world and instead started worrying about just one thing. How many birds can I record from my garden / window in an hour?
After winning yesterday's Back Garden Bird Race against my friend in North London I felt confident that I could take on pretty much anybody when it came to back garden bird spotting. I asked folks if anyone would care to take me on and over fifty people accepted the challenge. I must admit when I saw the number of people who had signed up to take part I did start to get a bit anxious - but when the clock struck ten and I had racked up six species in the first minute I was still pretty confident that I could pull this off.
However what I didn't take into account is that some of people taking part today live right next door to nature reserves on the coast. They can peer over their garden fences and look out onto mudflats, gravel pits and The English Channel. However, as people posted their sightings on the website, there came some good news. A heavy fog was clinging to the Sussex coast. While I basked under blue skies other folk couldn't see their hand in front of their face. Perfect.
(A foggy start for Cliff Dean)
This could have been the lucky break I needed. Even the folks in Brighton flats were struggling to see anything
(Fog rolling in over Brighton this morning. Photo by Peter Whitcomb)
The comments on the Facebook page continued non-stop as everyone sent in their sightings from across Sussex. People were frantically scanning the skies and staring at their bird feeders from their patios, gardens, driveways, fire escapes or through their windows and scribbling down their species.
(Bird Race locations by Matt Musgrove, Sue Walton, Jess Price, Georgie Nash and Lois Mayhew)
(Great Black-backed Gulls in Brighton by Tom Simpson)
(Lucy and Steve Sutcliffe even made their own bird hide. Very clever. Photo: Vanessa Sutcliffe)
I thought I was doing well as three Great Spotted Woodpeckers chased each other around the garden and a Green Woodpecker laughed somewhere in the distance and took me to 20 species.
But the Green Woodpecker was the only one laughing when news came in that Ryan was on 29 species in his garden on the Knepp Estate.
(Blackbird just sitting around waiting to be added to the list by Ryan Greaves)
And then even worse news - the fog had cleared at Pett and Rye and Cliff and Barry were on over 30 species.
(Things start to look brighter for Cliff Dean)
My hopes of claiming today's trophy were in tatters and despite finding a Chiffchaff in the neighbour's hedge and spotting 4 Buzzards rising on the thermals.
The final whistle blew at 11:00 and two seconds later a Red Kite glided into view. But it was too late...it was all over.
So it's time to reveal today's scores. I had to trawl through 375 comments on the Facebook thread to get all this info. Hopefully it's correct but apologies in advance if I have it wrong or have missed anybody.
(Mike's final tally at Herstmonceux. Photo by Mike Mullis)
So Barry romps home to victory with 35 birds in a hour. Barry said “Coastal mist hampered viewing but meant that sounds carried far... I should probably be excluded from the big prize as to the south of my garden lies Rye Harbour Nature Reserve and to the north a gravel pit. Very few birds actually in my garden, but 'heard from' and 'flying over' my total was 35. As with these counts it's usually the birds you would expect but are not recorded, that are the most interesting...”
Barry missed out a Chiffchaff - so I beat him on something. However I would have rather had some of Barry's 'garden birds' Avocet, Oystercatcher, Egyptian Goose and Great Crested Grebe on my list. Maybe I should try and install an estuary in my back garden before the next race.
As Barry nobly says, he should probably be excluded from the big prize because he lives next to Rye Harbour.
But the joke's on him. There wasn't a prize.
But there was a really impressive tally of birds in today's race with Kevin even spotting the first Swallow of the spring.
Overall an impressive 64 species were seen today.
Avocet, Barn Swallow, Black Headed Gull, Blackbird, Blackcap, Blue Tit, Canada Goose, Carrion Crow, Cetti’s Warbler, Chaffinch, Chiffchaff, Coal Tit, Collared Dove, Common Buzzard, Common Gull, Common Pheasant, Coot, Cormorant, Curlew, Dunnock, Egyptian Goose, Feral Pigeon, Goldcrest, Goldfinch, Great Black-backed Gull, Great Crested Grebe, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Great Tit, Green Woodpecker, Greenfinch, Grey Heron, Grey Wagtail, Greylag Goose, Herring Gull, House Sparrow, Jay, Jackdaw, Lapwing, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Linnet, Little Grebe, Long-tailed Tit, Magpie, Mallard, Marsh Tit, Meadow Pipit, Mediterranean Gull, Moorhen, Nuthatch ,Oystercatcher ,Pied Wagtail ,Red Kite, Red-legged Partridge, Redshank, Robin, Rook, Shelduck, Skylark, Sparrowhawk, Starling, Stock Dove, Treecreeper, Tufted Duck, White Stork, Woodpigeon, Wren.
It felt great to be taking part in a group activity and I was tickled to think of all the people across the county birdwatching with me - whether you were next to a nature reserve, sat on a fire escape in Hove or peeking out through a home made bird hide into your back garden. I hope the birds of Sussex raised your spirits. It worked for me and from all the lovely comments I've received it certainly worked for you too.
A huge thank you to everyone who took part.
Maybe we should do it again next weekend.
Might as well I guess, what else are we going to do?