Further to my previous post, the county by county results for the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch make for interesting reading: That's an Excel file so you'll need an appropriate spreadsheet program to open it, e.g. OpenOffice.

Though the House Sparrow was the overall champion, it only ranked third in my home county of Hertfordshire, with Blue tit and Blackbird beating it. In Essex Starlings are most numerous, Blackbirds in Norfolk. In Scotland and Northern Ireland the Chaffinch wins quite a lot of counties. The only other bird hitting the top spot is the Feral pigeon in Glasgow.

Take a look and see if the results reflect your own personal experience.


You may recall back in January the RSPB held its annual Big Garden Birdwatch, where ordinary people all over the country counted the birds in their garden for an hour and sent in their results. Well they've finally added it all up (must have been doing it by hand) and the results are in!

I won't steal their thunder too much, but it looks like many small birds are bouncing back after the bad 2009/2010 winter, with Goldcrests (the very smallest of our small birds) doubling in number. Similar good news for Long-tailed tit, Coal tit and Treecreeper. I must say I've seen a fair few Treecreepers in the past year compared to those previous. I am a bit surprised that this most recent winter hasn't had a similarly bad effect on birdlife, but I suppose it wasn't as bad the winter before it.

The single most common bird is apparently the House Sparrow, averaging four per garden. I certainly have squawking flocks of them fighting in the bushes at the moment.

I've posted a Little egret picture before, but this captive example at Whipsnade Zoo shows a slightly different perspective. The basic idea is the same though: small white heron!

I do see them occasionally around the countryside on river banks, often from the car, though they're clearly not nearly as numerous as Grey herons. I'm slightly surprised that the RSPB's page on the Little egret has the numbers as low as they do, but maybe it's just evidence of how quickly numbers can swell (or diminish) over just a few years. Or maybe there's just been a few kicking around my neck of the woods.

If you've never looked at a woodlouse up close you might not notice how interesting and pretty they can be! I was particularly drawn to this one (admittedly a strange phrase given the subject) as it looked more colourful and patterned than the usual woodlice that I see, which are just a uniform grey. It also seemed to run about three times faster than woodlice I'm familiar with.

As usual with these things I feverishly looked it up, expecting to find that I had unveiled an exotic invader or even a whole new species, only to find that it is the "common woodlouse". So how come I haven't noticed these patterned ones before? I think the usual ones that sneak across the carpet must be the common rough or common shiny woodlice.

24. March 2011 · 4 comments · Categories: Mammals

I crept up to this tiger as it slept and took a close-up photo. Either that or it was behind two layers of mesh fence at Whipsnade zoo, I can't remember…

It's not a great photo, but it's the best a compact can do 10 metres from a small bird. This is a Brambling, and it's the first one I've seen in our garden (in fact the first one I've seen ever, I think) so quite an exciting moment when we realised there was something new on the feeders and we rushed to identify it!

At first glance it could be mistaken for a Chaffinch, having the same basic pattern, colours and size, but the orange is so very much brighter and extends into the shoulder, the head a mottled grey all over and the beak yellow (though that's not the case in breeding males apparently). The overall effect is much brighter and more exotic than a Chaffinch. I waited a while with a bigger camera but we haven't seen it again yet.


The natural world is springing up around us so it's an exciting time to watch it grow. Here are a few things I have noticed of late.

  • Bees are out in force, both bumble and honey.
  • Lacewings seem to have been particularly numerous compared to previous years. I've seen loads of them in various buildings in various parts of the country.
  • I saw my first butterfly of the year: a Comma, which overwinter as adults to emerge in March.
  • The lawn has received its first cut of the year (and it's second today) though my neighbours blinked first 🙂
  • Daffodils are everywhere, whilst snowdrops are almost completely done.
  • Birds are noisily celebrating. Magpies in particular seem to be building nests as I see them flying with twigs, but I imagine many species are doing so.
  • Ponds are full of frogspawn (pictured), and presumably other types of spawn.

Feeding time for the otters at Whipsnade Zoo. As if I could get a picture like that in the wild!

A recent visit to Whipsnade Zoo offered an opportunity to see exotic creatures not usually spotted in the UK. But amidst the elephants, tigers and giraffes, smaller less assuming animals roam free in their 600 acres. One of these is the Mara, which at first glance looks like a big rabbit. Or a very small deer. It's actually the fourth largest rodent in the world and quite interesting to read up on courtesy of Wikipedia or Whipsnade's own page.

It looks especially rabbity when sat as above, though when stood up you can see the long legs and hoof-life feet at the back. As far as I can tell these haven't escaped into the wild and become established, though they're clearly happy enough roaming the Dunstable Downs fairly freely, but within the confines of the zoo.


The BBC reports on a survey of UK reptiles and amphibians that suggests numbers of most are in decline. Adders, toads, lizards and pretty much everything else apart from Palmate newts are seemingly struggling since 2007 when the surveying began.

I'd illustrate this article with a picture of an adder but I'm afraid I've never seen one let along photographed one. It sounds like my chances are shrinking.