RSPB – Garden Birdwatch

I was all ready; the feeders were full, the birdbath thawed, pen, paper and binoculars to hand and a cup of steaming coffee ready to drink.

I had only filled the feeders that were close to the house; those hanging on the cherry tree outside our downstairs bedroom window.

That way I wouldn’t have to strain to see what birds were at the bottom of the garden.

I made one last visit outside to put down some extra food foraged from the kitchen as recommended in my birdwatch pack and then retired behind the window to wait.

There was a little flurry of activity when three brownish birds landed on the feeder tree. Oh help – were they dunnocks or female sparrows?

I decided on dunnocks.

Then I could hear the screeching of the overlarge Aberdeen seagulls.  I could see them circling. That would not help the more shy birds feel safe enough to feed.

I dashed out and moved the larger food items to the bottom of the garden. Here they were devoured in a few minutes.

Greedy Aberdeen gull

Greedy Aberdeen gull

The Aberdeen Herring gulls are very large birds and we have thousands of them. They are not well loved, being very noisy and aggressive; there has even been a call in the past for these birds to be fed contraceptive pills! I usually try not to feed them!

Anyway after that initial flurry all went quiet.

I sat and I waited

And I waited and I sat.

Empty garden

Empty garden

Not a bird was in sight. I decided that my birds were obeying a law of Physics called the ‘Observer Affect’. This states that you cannot measure certain systems without changing the thing you are trying to measure.  It is a bit like measuring the air pressure of a car tyre; you cannot measure it without letting some air out!  My birds were definitely reacting to being counted. They had all disappeared.

Empty feeders

Empty feeders

But wait is that a tail?


A tail peeping out from behind the feeder

They kept me waiting a good half an hour. I was considering whether the rules would allow me to start again a bit later, when suddenly they all appeared.

It was difficult to count them, especially as they were quite well camouflaged by the tree branches.

The blackbirds came first and that must have given the signal to the others that the coast was clear.

At the end of the hour most daily visitors had managed to put in an appearance.


I noted the following:

  • 1 Robin
  • 3 Blackbirds
  • 2 Blue tits
  • 5 Chaffinches (male and females)
  • 1 Coal tit
  • 3 Dunnocks
  • 2 Goldfinches – is this enough for a ‘charm’ or more of a ‘troubling’?
    (but I am cross with these as they are refusing to eat the Niger seed           bought especially, preferring instead the sunflower seeds)
  • 1 Greenfinch
  • 1 House sparrow
  • 2 Woodpigeons


  • 1 Grey squirrel

The only birds I didn’t see today were the big black crows,the sweet Collared Doves and the noisy Magpies.

I tried to take some photographs of these birds after the hour was up, but that Observer affect seemed to be taking place again. The garden was deserted. . . . .




33 thoughts on “RSPB – Garden Birdwatch

  1. Well done for taking part. Is the Observer Effect the same thing as Schrödinger’ s Cat? I’ m glad they turned up for you in the end. And what a delight to have goldfinches. I don’t see them very often.

    • Possibly, but that would mean that the birds were both there and not there at the same time until I looked at them and then they clearly weren’t there until they were that is. Time for bed I think!

  2. Had a similar experience in my garden Annette. I even went to the expense of buy in live meal worms! Not a single bird took a fancy for them. I’ve now got half a kilo of live worms that I don’t know what to do with.
    Save your self the expense of the Niger seed. I found the ignored it in favour of the sunflower hearts too!
    You had a good count though. Can I send you some sparrows and starlings 🙂

    • Oh dear – live meal worms – that is much worse. The robins are supposed to like them aren’t they. I don’t know what is wrong with the birds round here! When I bought Niger seeds last year the Goldfinches did eat them, but I guess they have forgotten they like it. I think birds are spoilt these day – I think I will go back to bread crusts like we used to feed them when I was young!

  3. Thank you for your kind comment on my blog. Like your Goldfinches, ours show no interest in their special Niger seed feeder. And ‘my’ Dunnocks never land on the feeder but peck shyly away in the undergrowth beneath it.

    • Its sounds as if it is a myth about Goldfinches liking Niger seeds. You are the second person to say that. Unless they have somehow changed the production of these things so they don’t like them any more.

  4. Annette, this sounds like a lovely gathering! We put Niger seed out as the bag said Robins like it, they seem more intent on suet blocks with dried meal worms and insect powder in though. Yum!

    • At least your mealworms were dried and not live like Angie got left with!
      I think I will have to try putting the Niger seed on the bird table to see if our robins will eat it.

  5. I bought a niger seed feeder last year in an effort to attract goldfinches, which we rarely see here. Result? Not one. The marsh tits absolutely love the stuff though and we’re always having to refill the feeder. I did see a bullfinch recently, not in the magic hour though needless to say.

    • I was so hopeful last year when I first tried it. It did take a while before they discovered it but then I had a whole lot of them – they were so pretty. This year though they seem to be ignoring it. I am going to empty the feeder and try again with fresh in case it loses its smell after a while. Or maybe I should stop putting out the sunflower seeds for a while to make them eat it! That would be a shame for the others though.

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