Ready, steady... are you up for a challenge?

Gardens, and the views to be gained from our windows, are going to become increasingly important for the birder in the weeks to come. The area that directly surrounds us will become the provider of what species will come our way, in tandem with the weather conditions, local fly-lines and our own effort. The map above shows the proximity of my home to open areas. To give some sense of scale, I can clearly hear Skylarks in song as they display over the small holdings to the north of me.

I've been preparing for the forthcoming 'garden birdathon', self-imposed or not. A Kent birder of my acquaintance and I have agreed to a friendly challenge, starting today and finishing whenever this dreadful virus is deemed to be under control, which may, unfortunately, be some time. The challenge is simple, keeping a count of how many species of bird we record from our gardens. The winner will be the person who records the highest percentage of their historical garden list. My garden total - birds seen in or from it -  since August 1987, comes in at 92 species, not bad for a suburban area. Plenty of these, a whopping 18.4%, are of single records, and if you factor in those species that have been seen five times or fewer, this brings the total of 'rare' back garden birds to 30.4% of that total, a considerable chunk. These rarer species are:

Single records only: Spoonbill (two birds), Wigeon (flock calling at night), Pheasant, Golden Plover, Curlew, Common Sandpiper, Short-eared Owl, Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, Woodlark, Tree Pipit, Black Redstart, Firecrest, Pied Flycatcher, Raven, Hawfinch, Yellowhammer, Reed Bunting

2-5 records: Mute Swan, Honey Buzzard, Peregrine, Moorhen (nocturnal calls), Ringed Plover (nocturnal calls), Bar-tailed Godwit (nocturnal calls), Whimbrel, Cuckoo, Little Owl, Yellow Wagtail, Lesser Whitethroat.

A few species, notably Lapwing, Willow Warbler and Bullfinch, have slipped from being regulars to becoming rare. Others have swapped being rare for becoming regular, in particular Common Buzzard, Red Kite and Ring-necked Parakeet.

Back garden sky-watching can be slow, but the rewards, when they come, are all the more personal. If anybody else wants to join in this 'percentage' challenge, just shout. The more the merrier as they say and I can collate the totals and post updates.



DunnoKev said…
You've reminded me of another version of this game. IIRC decades ago decades ago in a 'Birdwatching' column DIMWit suggested a points system that went something like-
4 pts - seen in
3 pts - seen over
2 pts - seen from
1 pt - heard from

(I may have mixed the 2 / 3 pointers there) Tried it at time, made for added fun trying to turn a one pointer into a higher scorer :-)
Steve Gale said…
I like that! Trouble is, with my modest suburban garden up against a massive coastal estate, I would get trounced by that scoring system, whereas I have a fighting chance with a straight forward percentage...
Dave Boyle said…
Did I read you were getting in to noc-migging Steve? Can you count recorded only species if you don't actually hear them?
Steve Gale said…
As much as noc-migging intrigues me Dave, I haven’t taken it up. Recordings will not count in this little competition, so any nocturnal calls have to be heard by the birder, as have my own garden nocturnal calls.
Gavin Haig said…
I'm going to Potter around in the garden a bit this weekend, so might as well keep eyes and ears open for birds while I'm at it. I don't keep a garden list Steve (never have) so I'll just be in it for the sake of being in it... :-)
Steve Gale said…
Dyl - excellent. Please let me know your historical garden list and I can then update your percentage score as we go along.

Gav - welcome. If you can let me have your thoughts, highlights etc then any posts reporting back on this enterprise can include your good self.
John said…
Steve, I have never listed, I couldn't tell you how many of anything I have ever seen (orchids included) but in these times I think I am up for it! I will provide the basal level. Thank god for the Long-tailed Tits that are nesting in our hedge! Of course at my age I could be dead next week!
Steve Gale said…
John, you’d be most welcome! By the way, don’t leave us yet!
John said…
Steve, thanks, I don't intend to but you never know in these astonishing times,. I could die from lack of loo paper because one thing is certain I am not going to join the masses fighting for it. Keep safe.
Dylan Wrathall said…
John, don't let selfish morons grind you down. If we stick together, we'll get through this crazy situation. Garden birding doesn't get much more basic, yet what might be discovered through this enforced period of self isolation may provide the RSPB with data that can be usefully employed to thwart ecological vandalism due to housing developments, as we move forward. Stay calm and keep safe - Dylan
Derek Faulkner said…
My garden list consists mainly of a large flock of House Sparrows and the odd Blue Tit, hardly enough to lift one out of virus depression. Fortunately however, I have my daily visits to the Swale NNR to comfort and enthuse me, twice daily sometimes. Unless I have to spend a few days out with the virus of course.
Steve Gale said…
Enjoy the walks Derek and keep safe.
Wild Stutton said…
Hi Steve,

Count me in please.

Just been through my Birdtrack records for the garden and noticed a few definite omissions - casuals that I didn't get round to entering - so I stand on 75.

Since the 24 March I have had 42 species.

New ones have been Great Black-backed Gull and Red Kite.


Steve Gale said…
Where are you Mark, and can I have the initial of your surname please. Thanks.
Chris P said…
Hi Steve, could I join please? I'm in Claygate in Surrey and I'm up to 35 (today was Meadow Pipit/Mistle Thrush). Thanks

Chris P

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