Corona Wildlife Diary: Day Fifty-four

10 May 2020 | Posted in Michael Blencowe
Corona Wildlife Diary: Day Fifty-four
Back Garden Bird Race / Jocelyn Owen

Day Fifty-four

Thanks to everybody who took part in today's Back Garden Bird Race (Number 6). There was plenty of excitement today and many people reported a new personal best while other people turned in their lowest score.

The weather was a bit of a mixed bag too. I was blessed by blue skies but others had a spot of rain and in Brighton Jess reported that it felt like "a storm is brewing". I hoped my meteorological advantage would help me beat my personal best (28) but today's race was very much a game of two halves for me. In the first half hour I rattled up 24 species. But then added just one more (Collared Dove) in the second half. Over in Mountfield Robin notched up 17 species in the first 15 minutes and added just 3 more in the remaining 45 minutes.

For me and for many others the stars of the show today were the Swifts which have returned this week to take their place in the skies of Sussex. People all over the county were thrilled to see them back above their homes. As Kim said  “The highlight was watching swifts screaming and jostling in the sky over Brighton”.

Swift Pix

(My first Swift of 2020 over the bungalow - I've zoomed in so you can see I wasn't making it up)

The Swift wasn't Cliff Dean's bird of the day though. A Black Kite lazily drifted over Cliff's garden with a group of circling Buzzards. Black Kites are rare visitors to Sussex (mainly in May) and this bird has taken a wrong turn somewhere during migration  (it should be in southern Europe). It was the second time Cliff has seen a Black Kite over his garden in about ten years. However another surprise for Cliff was a Fulmar skimming past the marshes below (a first for his garden list).

Black kite   milvus migrans   in flight

(A Black Kite photographed in Greece by Вых Пыхманн)

For Jane the star bird of the day was an Osprey migrating over the garden. That must have been rather special. Ospreys migrate through Sussex each year heading to northern Britain or beyond into northern Europe. Jane also was lucky enough to see a Red Kite soaring close to the garden.

There were a few other Red Kites reported gliding around the county. This one...

Mike Mullis

...flying low over Herstmonceux just a few minutes after the race was photographed by Mike Mullis. It was great to hear of a Red Kite circling over Brighton during the race too. Peter took this photo of the Brighton Red Kite which is the same quality as most of my bird photos. 

Red Kite Peter Whitcomb

(Peter assures me that the Red Kite is the dot in the middle of the photo).

Caroline and Steve reported that "The skies behind our house were like some kind of aerial battleground yesterday involving red kites, buzzards, rooks and crows."

Steve Jay

(Photo by Steve Jay)

Elsewhere, Joy and Peter were thrilled with a Red Kite over their Lindfield garden (cutting it fine at 10:58). Only the second one they have ever seen and a first for their garden list.

There was a pair of Hobbies seen by Kevin north of Horsham. Another was reported just seven minutes before the race by Colin and Janet in Steyning. Another Hobby, possibly the same bird was seen by Gemma ten minutes after the race in Steyning. 

Other surprises were a Tree Pipit migrating in off the sea and over Alan's garden in Fairlight and James saw a lone Ring-necked Parakeet hurtling over Eastbourne. Viv had a Kingfisher flying through her garden outside Storriington. Another nice surprise came from Steve Funnell who noticed that the nest box he has in his garden was being used for the first ten years. 

Steve Funnell

Over in Wisborough Green Penny noted that things were "noticeably quieter. I guess more birds are on nests and feeding young now". A lot of people were reporting the first fledglings (inc. Starlings, Blackbirds and Robins) being fed in the garden and Ryan photographed this young Song Thrush.

Ryan Thrush

There were a few mystery birds too. Thanks to Tirzah's illustration her mystery paddle-winged bird was identified as a Lapwing.


However the bird "that sounds like it's saying potato in a comedy Irish accent" remained unidentified.

And Gemma's photo that she claimed was a Long-tailed Tit in flight turned out to be a bird dropping.


(Well if you squint you can sort of see what she means)

Montage 2

(Photos from Mike Mullis, Tirzah Bottomley, Andrew Chandler Grevatt, Andy Dinsdale, Lucy Groves, Rosemary Duffin, Ryan Greaves)

So here are everyone's results from this week's bird race. Apologies as always for any errors or omissions.

BirdRaceTotals 10May2(1)

This list shows all the birds reported from Sussex gardens this week, from most frequent (in red) to least frequent (in green) with a total count of 78 species.

BirdList 10May

Thank you again to everyone who took part this week. Thank you to Lois Mayhew of Sussex Biodiversity Record Centre for her help with today's data.

Unless there's a major change in the pandemic quarantine situation tonight we'll hold the Back Garden Bird Race again next weekend.

I'll post an update on the Back Garden Bird Race website and Facebook page on Thursday.


  • Ginny-Vic:

    10 May 2020 17:00:00

    Wow! Amazing pictures from all the racers today! I don’t know how you remember all this! Your mind must be like the computers for the aeroplanes at Heathrow with maps of where all the birds are flying from and too and different point in the year!

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