Corona Wildlife Diary: Day Ninety-six

, 21 June 2020
Corona Wildlife Diary: Day Ninety-six

Day Ninety-six

I'll put this up here so you all see it - the next Back Garden Bird Race will be on Sunday 26 July (10-11). Put it in your diaries!

Well, today was the end of the era. The last of the weekly Back Garden Bird Races. We started running this event twelve weeks ago and it has been wonderful to see that so many people have joined in. Thank you for the lovely comments today. A lot of people have told me that the Bird Race has been a highlight of lockdown life and has helped them get through the past three months.

So, for those of you who have been wondering what the frantic thrill of a Back Garden Bird Race is like in my back garden...I filmed the first 10 birds of last Sunday's race. It's only about 3 minutes long...but if you want to see a middle-aged man get excited about a Lapwing then this is the video for you.

You can watch the action here


I was sort of hoping for a fly-past at around 10:55 - all the great birds I've seen over the past 12 weeks gliding by in formation in my honour: Red Kite, Hobby, Lapwing, Cormorant, Kestrel. But it didn't happen. It was an emotional hour for me though.

But those weren't tears streaming down my face...they were raindrops. This was the first time in twelve weeks that we had a rare sighting of rain during the Bird Race. And there was a strong wind too. As Georgie messaged to say

"It’s very windy here, it’s going to be tough for identification - the birds are flying / being blown past at speed! The culmination of weeks of bird racing put to the test..."

We knew we were in trouble when Mike Mullis had to reach for his special waterproof notebook.


While the twelfth Bird Race started with wind and rain for most people, Gemma almost had a horrific start to her race...

"Running late again, so breakfast al the wildlife in my muesli...I nearly didn't"


Over in East Sussex Cliff Dean was panicking as the race started - he could barely see the Pett Levels below his garden. I had timed the race perfectly so most of us would be in sunshine while Cliff raced in the rain.

Clifford View

The garden view over the Pett levels which has given Cliff the edge over the last twelve weeks.

Speaking of views, each week I have been really jealous of Jane Faccini's view over her garden in sunny Northern Italy. 

Jane Faccini

Jane said "Thank you so much for letting me join in, my Grandmother was born in Brighton,so Sussex is in my blood!" 

This female Blackcap was photographed during the Bird Race by Simon Linington. 

Collage 2

Photos from Jane Willmott, Tirzah Bottomley, Jessanny Mayhew, Sue Curnock, Georgie Nash

This week's Woodpigeon of the Week (a feature I only started 2 weeks ago) winner I now have this crazy Woodpigeon nesting in the neighbour's hedge.


Thank you to everyone who took part in the last weekly Back Garden Bird Race. Congratulations to everybody who achieved a new Personal Best score. Here are the results from this week. Apologies as always for any errors or omissions.


And there was quite a close finish at the top of the results table this week with Bob, Ryan, Jane and Cliff on 30 or more. But Cliff was the winner again. Cliff messaged to say:

"Well, it's been fun...In other words a weekly struggle with the elements and Cruel Fate in the form of uncooperative and underhand birds. For weeks, however, it's been the only "engagement" in our diary. A great initiative and very successful in coordinating the attentions of back garden birdwatchers across the county. Thanks again to Michael, Clare, Lois & Dave for facilitating it. Will it now be the time for Michael to step forth from his cul-de-sac??"

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 67 species.


Each week Andy Dinsdale's results have become more and more elaborate. I was worried that Andy may actually try and communicate his results this week through the medium of interpretive dance. Instead Andy says...

"As for your "interpretive dance" comment Michael, I give you a final curtain call. Can you find which of the regular cast were seen and heard from my interpretive bird song"

Andy 2

Can you identify Andy's 22 birds from the picture and his interpretation of their calls. Try and find :

Coal Tit, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Nuthatch, Blackcap, Herring Gull, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Wood Pigeon, Chiffchaff, Jay, Wren, Carrion Crow, Blackbird, Robin, Song Thrush, Raven, Magpie, Jackdaw, Feral Pigeon, Marsh Tit, Mistle Thrush, Collared Dove.

Thank you to everyone who has helped deliver this event for the past twelve weeks. To my colleagues Richard Cobden, Emma Chaplin and Sam Roberts at Sussex Wildlife Trust for promotion, website and the logo. To Dave Kilbey of Natural Aptitude for designing and donating the Bird Race app. To my friend Andy Reynolds - my desire to beat him on Day 17 was the inspiration for the bird race. To Clare for helping me during the actual race each week. And a big thank you to Lois Mayhew of Sussex Biodiversity Record Centre for her giving up her Sunday afternoons and spending hours sorting out the scores and data each week. 

And now for the big secret.

It was never really a race. I just wanted to give you something to do during this challenging time in the hope you'd enjoy it and maybe learn something about the birds in your area. 

And, if you have...then we're all winners.

Thank you so much for taking part. It's been fun hanging out with you each week. Hey, I may even get to meet some of you one day.

So, we may have missed out on Andy Dinsdale's interpretive dancing...but he did send me this clip of some other interpretive dance which sums it all up (here)


  • Ginny-Vic:

    Thank you so much Michael, Lois and Clare and everyone else for giving up all your time to organise such an accessible competition that literally anyone can take part in. I must admit when I first sat down to take part I realised I didn’t really know any birds and those I did weren’t likely to come to my garden. I have really enjoyed finding out about them, feeding them and listening out to see if I can hear any. And when there weren’t many birds I have been able to see some of the other things in the diaries like the orange tip butterflies and the beeflies that I probably would never have noticed. In what has been quite a lonely time it has been so nice to feel a part of something. I’m sure you had to work very hard during the week doing other Wildlife Trust things so thank you for giving up your Sundays as well to help bring people together in this strange time. I have loved wearing my t-shirt!

    21 Jun 2020 18:05:00

  • Gordon McGoochan:

    Hmmf! I didn’t know that hearing a Blackbird in the neighbour’s garden counted not that it would have made any difference to my score. Glad to see I finished the season in a very strong position namely propping up the rest of the table. Thanks again all involved for providing an absolute highlight of this lockdown period and for giving me a new found appreciation of the nature around me. Much love x

    21 Jun 2020 19:30:00