Looking and learning

The RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch took place last weekend and its something I do every year. But for me, its not just about watching for birds and recording their numbers – its about learning more about my garden….

I love sitting in the garden, admittedly mostly in spring and summer, and just watching and listening. But rarely do I have the luxury of spending a whole hour in the garden doing nothing but watch. I’m usually grabbing a quick coffee, having lunch, or grabbing a few rays of sun.

That’s why I love the birdwatch. It forces me to take an hour in January and just look. And its not just the birds I am looking at. In winter the garden’s structure is bare and it’s a good time to assess what’s going on and where changes may need to be made.  If possible, I like to do an hour at different times as there is a rhythm to the garden with birds active at different times.

This year the bird feeder was busy with blue tits and great tits, with a robin on the ground picking the discarded bits. There were crows and pigeons in the large trees and two blackbirds moving around under the fruit trees looking for rotten apples.  I see many more birds, but they didn’t make an appearance during this hour.

Changing my plans

But there was one pattern of behaviour that interested me because of my garden plans. I noticed that the blue tits used a large Himalayan honeysuckle ( Leycesteria formosa) as a staging post on their way to the bird feeder. Looking at its position, it was the only tall shrub between the hornbeam hedge and the farm hedge – a distance of about 10m in one direction and  5m in the other, and it gave them a clear view of the feeder which is around 5m away in different direction.

I have had some new garden plans drawn up for that section of the garden and the Leycesteria is sat right at the edge of the planned herbaceous bed so its basically ‘in the way’  and given the plant is quite old and woody in places I was going  to take it out. But perhaps those plans will have to change and it may be a partial cut back … I will just have a duck as I walk along the path.