Corona Wildlife Diary: Day Thirty-three

19 April 2020 | Posted in Michael Blencowe
Corona Wildlife Diary: Day Thirty-three

Thank you to everyone who joined us for the Back Garden Bird Race this morning between 10-11. 

I've scoured the Bird Race app, my emails, the blog and the Sussex Willdife Trust Nature Table facebook page and I think there were 349 people who took part today. Amazing.

A lot of people saw their first Barn Swallows back in from South Africa...including Tom watching the swallows arriving in off the sea from his fire escape in Hove (see photo above).

And a few lucky folk heard their first Cuckoo of the spring (so I'm legally obliged to add a link to this little ditty - here)

Alan and Vince saw some of the first incoming Common Swifts (at Fairlight and Crawley) and it was good to see some people had used yesterday's I.D. guide to spot House Martins too. Other arriving summer migrants seen included Nightingale, Willow Warbler and Common Whitethroat. And there were also sightings of Yellowhammer, Treecreeper, Siskin, Linnet, Little Owl, Tawny Owl, Egyptian Goose, Red-legged Partridge and Little Egret. The same group of Buzzards circling over Brighton were noted by a few locked down observers in the city. Here's a photo by Roz Price  (which is almost as good as my Sparrowhawk photos).

Roz Price

Those with views of the coast recorded Sandwich Tern, Common Tern and Fulmar and some folk in Seaford could hear (but not see) the Kittiwake colony on the cliffs. Charlie almost put Tawny Owl on her list until she realised the call was ' helpfully' being played by her partner through the bedroom window.

I challenged some folk to undertake the first 30 minutes blindfolded. Although what passes as a blindfold during a pandemic is questionable.


Despite trying to sabotage Barry by making him wear a blindfold he still achieved an impressive total of 41 from his 'unfair' garden next to our Rye Harbour Nature Reserve. Barry heard 25 birds (including his first Cuckoo of the year and Lesser Whitethroat) while blindfolded and then added another 16 birds with his 'blindfold' off (including returning Reed Warblers and Sedge Warblers). Cliff, in his feline blindfold managed to identify 23 birds by call in the first half hour.


Bird lists from Mike, Moi, Andy and Kim's son (aged 4)

I thought that my garden seemed rather quiet this week - but others were pleased to improve on their previous score and some scored a 'personal best'. As always a lot of people commented that it was great to spend time just sat looking and listening to their local birds. Keith said "In the 38 years I have been at this house I have never before just sat and watched birds".


(photos from Sue Walton, Cliff Dean, Paula Blake, Shlomit Worsfold, Emma Forward, Melanie Ellis and Helen Burgess)

So, it's taken me a few hours but here are this week's scores. A huge thank you to Lois Mayhew of the Sussex Biodiversity Record Centre for her assistance in organising these results. Apologies for any mistakes or if I have missed anybody out.

Table results

Blimey, that was a lot of people!

From elsewhere around our locked-down planet we had entries from Glasgow, Italy and from Ben in Bangkok. I'm always interested to see what garden birds look like in other countries. It seems in Thailand they look like this.


Scaly-breasted Munia (Photo Shantanu Kuveskar), Brown Shrike (Photo  by Rose Thunboor) and Malaysian Pied Fantail (Photo by Tony Castro)

But they weren't the most exotic birds seen on today's Bird Race. Jenny near East Hoathly saw two escaped Rheas in the woods opposite. "They've been wandering the locality for some weeks now," Jenny said, "They're quite a sight".

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A Rhea (Photo by Quartl)

Hope you all enjoyed today's race, thanks again for taking part. We'll do it again next weekend I'll have a look at the forecast on Thursday and work out whether Saturday or Sunday is the better day.

Look at the Back Garden Bird Race website or the Facebook page on Thursday for more details. 

Right, I'm going to have a sit-down with some Tequila and some Pickled Onions. Have a good week!


  • 19 Apr 2020 18:50:00

    Thank you so much for all the hard work in putting this together; it must have taken you hours. Very much appreciated, Thanks. Tom Lee Crowborough

  • Clifford Dean:

    19 Apr 2020 19:52:00

    That’s an amazing level of participation! Well done, Michael, for getting this going. Enjoy your sophisticated meal; over here in the Far East it’s Amber wodka + brown lentils…..

  • Keith Forshaw:

    19 Apr 2020 20:11:00

    The outstanding result today was the discovery of a new species….the feral pilgrim.Looks like a pidgeon but wears sandals.

  • Ginny-Vic:

    19 Apr 2020 20:20:00

    Thank you all for organising it and well done Lo too! Enjoy the Tequila! xx

  • Lyle McElderry:

    20 Apr 2020 07:16:00

    Thanks Mike, really enjoyed it. That’s so much for organising this. Top moment was when I thought
    I recognised a Goldcrest by his song. I remembered it from a Birdwatch Ireland walk through the lovely Belleck Woods in Co. Mayo some years ago. And then the lovely little Goldcrest emerged from our yew tree and sang his heart out just for me! All the very best, Lyle (Ditchling)

  • Andy Cherry:

    20 Apr 2020 08:35:00

    Hi, Enjoyed doing the bird race even though i only scored a handful of species. It was a first for me though i must admit I’d thought it was part of a more formal bird ‘census’ by SWT. Any chance we will get to see a summary of the species recorded, or even a distribution map?

  • Patrick Bonham:

    21 Apr 2020 07:23:00

    Maybe you’ve already totted it up, Michael, but I make it about 95 species overall. Great idea, great response from everyone, well done for organising it (what a job!) Is it next Sat or Sun? Looking forward to it.

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