How We Rediscovered Garden birds In The Lockdown

A blackbird nearly flying into my head on the High Street.  That was the first sign I had that something was going on with our local birdlife during lockdown.  We’re all fairly used to being mobbed by pigeons in the town centre, but blackbirds are usually much more timid. What was happening?

In this post we’re going to share with you how we’ve rediscovered garden birds and other local wildlife during lockdown. And give you some ideas on how you can make the most of your local natural world too.

How We Rediscovered Garden Birds in The Lockdown

Time is on Our Side

Probably the biggest contributor to our seeing more bird life is having more time to actually look.

In our house we work from home. So, in the glorious weather we’ve been having we take a break for coffee in the garden around 11.

We feed the birds just before we sit down, quietly to watch what’s going on. 

Seeing us there every day the birds soon got used to us and decided we were no threat.

And as the weeks have passed we’ve been treated to a procession of sparrows, starlings, blackbirds, blue tits, robins and more at our bird table.

Take the time to sit and watch quietly. Same time, same place each day. You’ll soon be rewarded.

Growing Confidence

We’ve all seen the pictures of animals and birds invading towns all over the world. I particularly like the goats invading Llandudno.

Some people have suggested that wildlife numbers are increasing. It’s not that good sadly. Even rabbits don’t breed quite that fast!

But birds and wildlife are definitely getting more confident. The lack of human noise and activity is allowing them to feel safe in spaces they never would have ventured into before. And to feel safe much closer to people.

We brush the dog whilst we’re having morning coffee in the garden (yes, it’s often quite a long coffee break!). We leave the fluff from the brush for nesting birds to use. It usually vanishes during the day. This spring we’ve had robins come right up and clear it away whilst we’re still sitting there.

There’s never been such a good time to get up close and personal with wildlife. And if you’re lucky you may have a chance to take some spectacular pictures too.

Though numbers haven’t increased yet, in the long run the lockdown may have a positive impact on numbers of birds and other wildlife. Less noise and human activity could mean fewer disturbed and abandoned nests and more of this year’s young successfully making it to adulthood. It’ll be awhile before we can measure this. But it seems like a reasonable theory to work with.

They’re So Loud!

People are saying birdsong is louder during the lockdown. It’s not, it’s just the rest of the world is quieter. So you can hear them better.

I love birdsong, but I can probably only identify 2 or 3 birds from their song.

I decided to fix this during the lockdown.

I started with the RSPB Birdsong Identifier . This has high quality recordings of common garden bird songs and will help you quickly get to grips with the difference between blue tit and blackbird song.

But of course there’s an app for this as well. Several in fact. I opted for ChirpOMatic. Which comes highly recommended by Birdwatching Magazine

ChirpOMatic, and other apps on the market, let’s you use your phone to record birdsong in your garden or out and about, and use the recording to identify the bird for you. Tested on a few birds we knew, it seems to work quite well so long as there isn’t too much background noise.

From using the app on a walk we are now convinced we have Golden Oriole in the woods we walk through. We hear the song regularly, though we’ve yet to see one!

What Is that Bird?

When you have the time to really look at what’s going on around you in your garden and on your daily walks you quickly realise there are an awful lot of birds you don’t recognise.

What is that little brown bird? A house sparrow, a dunnock, a thrush, or maybe a young robin?

I needed help. I could have opted for another app. But I like a good book. So after a bit of research I choose British Birds: A Pocket Guide. With 5 stars on Amazon and a place in the British Trust for Ornithology’s top 5 books of 2019 it seemed like a good bet.

At well over 200 pages you are going to need pretty big pockets. But it’s an easy to use and informative book. It helped us sort our sparrows from our dunnocks. 

We live very close to the International Centre for Birds of Prey. They regularly let their birds fly out. The book helped us identify which fantastic falcons were scaring the pants off our little garden residents.

 And it helped us identify a White Egret on the lake we walk to for exercise. Pretty exciting stuff. So money is well spent.

Everybody’s Doing It

It didn’t take long before we realised that bird watching had become a “thing”. Everybody’s doing it and there’s plenty of opportunity to get involved on social media and share your birding experiences with the world.

The RSPB Breakfast Birdwatch (#breakfastbirdwatch) has different themes each week. It challenges twitterers to spend the hour between 8 and 9am, when many of us would have been commuting, observing garden bird life.

Or you could follow @YOLObirder on Twitter to add a bit of healthy competition to your lockdown birding.

But you don’t have to be social media savvy to share the experience.When mother duck brought out her ducklings for the first time in our local park the crowd that started to gather nearly broke the social distancing rules. 

What’s going on with the wildlife has become something cheerful to talk about, at a time when cheerful has been in awfully short supply.

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of The Year

That might mean Christmas for small children, But for bird watchers it’s spring. We couldn’t have been locked down at a better time from a birding point of view. There has been so much going on in the garden.

We’ve had migrating birds. Swallows returning from Africa and birds like our egret, just passing through.

We’ve had mating displays and nest building. And now we have chicks and fledglings.

There has been so much to watch. I’m kind of glad it is pouring with rain now so there’s nothing to see and I can get some work done!

Not Just for the Birds

And as you start to watch the birds in your garden you begin to notice the other wildlife sound you as well.

We have hedgehogs in the garden, and actually saw one on a light evening a couple of weeks ago.

We spotted a mole above ground on one of our daily walks. It’s a creature I’ve never seen in the flesh before. An amazing privilege.

And our wildlife pond, built just last year has had frogspawn, tadpoles, and now actual frogs!

Silver Linings

Our relationship with the natural world has started to change during the lockdown.

It’s a change for the better.

Greater respect for, and engagement with our local wildlife could well become part of our new normal. And if it does that will be a powerful positive to come out of this grim time.

If you’ve not done it yet, grab a drink, take a seat in your garden or local park, watch, listen and enjoy. It’ll make your day.

And if you’re already a convert we would love to hear your stories and see your pictures.

Happy Garden Birding!

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2 Responses

  1. Clare What a lovely article – it so right that if we all just sit and observe we can see and discover so much – hopefully no more rushing from A to B or head stuck downwards looking at that phone !!!
    Thank you all the links !

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