Thank you to everyone who joined in with today's Back Garden Bird Race.
As it was International Dawn Chorus Day today I thought it would be both interesting (and frustrating) to undertake the hour-long race with all bird sounds blocked out. And a few other racers took up the challenge too.
Barry Yates (with his unfair garden on the edge of Rye Harbour Nature Reserve) still managed to see (but not hear) 43 species. I asked Barry how he had found the hour in silence
"As a hearing impaired birdwatcher I appreciate just how much the finding of birds depends on hearing. Four years ago I was amazed, when I stepped out of the hearing clinic with my first hearing aids, just how loud the Robins were in the car park! Now the world is very dull without my electronically-assisted hearing and today I swapped that for an hour with ear plugs!"
"It was so difficult today to locate many of the skulking birds and the ones far away… it was not nice, but the birds were busy displaying nesting, feeding young and fighting. It was surprising what flew by to make my total of 43 species. The regular noisy birds that were missed today were Robin, Blue and Great Tit, Reed and Cettis Warblers and Lesser Whitethroat. So, if you want to improve your birdwatching skills try and learn the bird calls… if you can’t hear many birds then perhaps get your hearing checked – it will make a big difference, modern hearing aids are amazing.
James Duncan also had his earplugs in in Eastbourne. He commented "I imagined just watching and not listening would take me right back to my childhood - memories of zero reliance on calls or song for recognition. I certainly didn't know many songs back then. I'm not sure I'd even realised it was an essential part of birdwatching. Today was even further removed, for it brought atypical sensory deprivation. No ability to even locate a bird's location by sound brought me nothing but a strained neck and impending feeling of eyestrain! Bird song is not just a pleasure, it's part of an entire immersive experience".
I too found birding without sound a real challenge. In a small suburban garden I am reliant on hearing birds in the surrounding area - so regular singers like Nuthatch, Blackcap and Chiffchaff which I hear in the distant woodland were off today's list. Smaller birds flitting through the dense willow remained just that, small unidentified birds. There was no extra aural clue to their identity. And, as good as it was to rock out to nine minutes of Free Bird by Lynyrd Skynrd with my headphones I really missed hearing my Blackcap and Wren.
Today's race really highlighted how important bird song is for locating and identifying birds. It's also been great to see so many people simply appreciating the bird song in a quieter world with fewer cars and planes.
A lot of people have been starting to learn some bird songs over the past few weeks. I have added some good bird song resources at the bottom of yesterday's blog if you want to start learning (here).
Cliff Dean also recorded 43 birds from his garden in Pett this week. Cliff wrote a blog this week letting us in on his bird race secrets for success. You can read it (here).
Barry at Rye (I'd like to think that's his house in the background, but it's not) and Cliff at Pett.
While I was suffering in my headphones, unable to hear the bird calls, it was good to know other people were suffering too with some drizzle and light rain (which wasn't on the forecast). Despite the weather people still carried on with the race and many were surprised to see that their scores were not affected. Jane Lawrence commented "There was a light rain for about half the time, which made us think that our numbers would be much lower, but they were actually about average". The cooler weather meant that birds of prey, which use warm thermals to lift them, were thin on the ground (or should that be thin in the sky?).
Photos from Dave Kilbey, Thomas Simpson, Andy Chandler-Grevatt, Shlomit Worsfold, Peter Whitcomb, Ryan Greaves, Andy Dinsdale, Sue Walton.
Chris Chapman made the point that "Doing this on a regular basis is excellent for getting to know the local bird life. For example I now know a Lesser Whitethroat has taken up residence in a nearby hedge with a Common Whitethroat not far away. I'm amazed the Mistle Thrush is still singing after at least four weeks from the same area. I've also been surprised at the number of House Martins that I've seen pass through. On the downside the apparent lack of Chaffinch is worrying".
There are still migrant birds arriving in from Africa (the Swifts haven't really arrived yet it seems). In every garden there are plenty of birds carrying beakfuls of food with hungry young in nearby nests while other young birds have already fledged and have left the nest. One of the best sightings of the day came from Clare Elmes in Ninfield who watched a "Swallow who decided it was coming in the back door, much to my daughter's delight who was sat on the doorstep underneath, as it flew in and out.".
Thank you again to everyone who took part. We'll hold the Back Garden Bird Race again next week. The weather forecast looks poor for Sunday - but we'll see what happens and I may have to change it to Saturday. I'll post an update on the Back Garden Bird Race website and Facebook page on Thursday.
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 80 species.