April -not the cruelest month

I keep fighting against the pressure of the list. For 8 days I felt I needed to add something to something. But having taken some early birds in March -WWarbler, Wheatear; and SMartin. and the change in weather I couldnt get a peep out of a Blackcap or a whistle from a Kingfisher.

Than a Little Egret in my 5km (91). so close to home brought back all the memories of ones dipped in years gone by -when they were chaseworthy. The one at Salthouse that would not come out of the dyke on a cold February day. And the one at ASDA Great Yarmouth. All you need to do is park in the car park look over the sea wall and . . . No. And so many years later there is one so close to home.

Followed closely by a 5km Peregrine (92) and seen from the house (98 over nearly 30 years). this was long overdue having seen them close to the house before.

Still slow until Easter week. A diversion from a trip to Middlesbrough -Med Gulls (125) and Blackwits (126) at RSPB Saltholme. Then to deliver oldies to a hospital in Norwich visit I felt the need to call at RSPB Lakenheath for the first time.

The enthusiam of the vol. on the gate to tell me about everybird -not every species was over ridden by my need to see birds. I had already seen more Brimstones in an hour than I normally see in a year but in 20C warmth Peacocks and Small Tortoiseshells we very active too. Then the birds. Marsh Harrier (126), Ruff (128), Garganey (129) -a nice pair giving great views. In the distance Cranes called (130). A kingfisher (131) flew over as a couple tried to refind a swimming Grass Snake. First singing Blackcap (132). Then right at the far end a Bittern (133) boomed. I havent heard this sound for years and was made up. So pleased with the trip I didnt call at Weeting or Lynford. The former just felt like I was going to a Zoo for a tick, though I know NWT do great stuff and I will not get Stone Curlew now this year.

Then this was going to be the killer. Driving four times past the Earlham marsh near the N&N Hospital with its Glossy Ibis. So near but yet so far. Neither parents were going to be able to do that walk today. But OMG right close to the road whilst in slow traffic there was the ibis. Bang 134. I should have given it more respect. They are fabulous oil on water petrol colours, but maybe next time.

Then the drive back from Norfolk another reserve tick in the form of RSPB Frampton. This has to be experienced. It is the most bird rich place in the UK away from a seabird colony I have been. It is like all the birds in Lincs have been sucked into this one spot. Maybe they have as the drive across the fens was like traversing death valley and should be a post in its own rights.

View from teh seawall at RSPB Frampton looking west.

Needless to say I am poor at this tick and run game. The Cuckoo and IOW Eagle had gone by the time I arrived but the air was full of Brent geese (135) calls and I spent too long/not enough time watching to get through all the ticks available. In particular I could have added Chewit and LStint but was so full of watching. I could have asked but as I overheard someone pointing to a black-coloured Ruff and calling it a Spotshank I didnt bother. I did add LRP (136), Spoonbill (137) and Sedge Warblers (138) -newly arrived and full of life. I also didnt bother the long walk to Little Gull but I had already overstayed the time I set aside for this diversion. But wow what a place. Go, you will be amazed.

In the short turn around -18hrs before heading back to Norfolk Blackcaps (93) could be heard from the garden.

No side trips on the way down to Blakeney. And then it was a couple of days before I did the right thing and visited the long-staying Red-breasted Goose (139), especially as it was only 10 mins walk from our holiday house. On reaching the Quay we could see a ‘Leica couple’ walking back on the seawall.

Me: ‘Seen the Goose?’

Them: ‘Its on Blakeney Saltings according to the website, but we dont know where they are.’

Me: ‘Here’ Pointing west from where we were standing and seeing small groups of scattered Brents.

Them: ‘we will go and ask someone’

Needless to say after a brief scan the RBG was found with Brents infront of the Blakeney Hotel. Infact there were two RBGs the other pinnioned in the duck pond. But lets not go there. And the ‘Leica pair’ yes they saw it but to do so walked out onto the marsh.

The afternoon was spent around Glandford. A walk from Natural Surroundings gave Whitethroat (140) and Egyptian Goose (141). it is a tranquil wrap around hug from nature. What a great place and Marsh Tit and Kingfisher were a bonus, as were the Brimstones.

Bank holiday monday was spent in the garden of a cousin and migrants were arriving House Martin (142), Garden Warbler (143) and Lesser Whitethroat (144), but none of the flood of Ringos gracing the county. Buzzards, kites, Sparrowhawks and a Marsh Harrier played across the sky. An evening walk added Swallow (145), Grasshopper Warbler (146) and a fly over Spoonbill.

Tuesday failed with Cattle Egret – I am not sure they really exist in England but the call of a Sandwich Tern (147) from Cley beach was proper summer.

Wednesday the wind was off the sea and turning cold but still sunny. Meeting Barry at Cley reserve* was a treat though it is not the mecca it once was and the ground just seems very dry away from the pools. Bearded Tit (148) and Reed Warblers (149) from the East Bank and Whimbrel (150) calling along the beach. Then spun a merry dance in a search for Kelling Heath before we called it a day.

Last bird of the holiday was a Firecrest (151) singing in a private garden. Its a long time since I have had such a score before the end of April.

Back home House Martin, Lesser Whitethroat, Swallow, Willow Warbler, Garden Warbler took the 5km up to 98.

Then it was the month that just kept on giving with Whinchat (152) within my 5km (100). And a before then Grasshopper Warbler (99) reeling there too.

*The one that got away? Pulled into Cley NWT and before being parked. A bird across the reeds heading West looked interesting. But it carried on going and with a distant arse-end view I will never know if it really was a Purple Heron, but later I found there had been one over Edgefield around 7am. None were reported in N Norfolk that week, but i think some of the birders seen at the RBG might not have recognised one even if it was at the Ice Cream van in the queue.

The List Made me do it!

I have a long standing friend of about 40 years who continues to raise awareness of conservation. Covid as you can imagine has got in the way, but each year we have manged to get a few birding challenges in. Part of this year is the challenge of seeing as 222 species of birds in the year. As you can guess in 2020 we needed to see two less, and crashed and burned.

Anyway the race is on and somehow I got roped back into the evil world of lists. I say evil, but what I mean is a new voice that says, ‘Stay out 10 minutes longer’; ‘Walk that extra mile’; ‘Go out when you should be doing something else’. But what else is there now more important than the list? And to make things worse we took on a side bet of birds in the 5km from home. And then he roped in other people who I don’t know so I have the other danger of the unknown birder.

Seriously, though we are not going to send George Michael into apoplexies by running up a National record. No this is just for fun.

So you join the race at the end of the first quarter. Barry has the earlier entries as do other competitors –here and here.

But for me March has felt quite slow with only adding 11 species to reach the dizzy heights of 123. This has included a slow trickle of summer migrants -Chiffchaff, Kittiwake, Sand Martin. It includes Gateshead’s first Wheatear of the year and my only record of Willow Warbler in March. I picked up a few more winter visitors -Green sandpiper and Red-breasted Merganser. With a couple of residents finally being added -Green Woodpecker and Peregrine.

And finally, the only scarce species on this years list is Siberian Chiffchaff. Two or three silent birds were reported from the reedbeds in Gateshead, used to purify water before it enters the river Team. Having dipped a few times I returned after the report of one singing early in the month. The grey-milky tea plumage and the, ‘is that one isn’t it one’ conversation was replaced by wow that song is so different it stands out a mile.

However it was the dips that reminded me that I am in it for the birds not just building up the list and as such digging around the 5km is for me where I am really enjoying birding. The list has moved on to 90 with -Barn Owl and Kingfisher being the stand-out omissions.

It is though these sightings that has made this part of the challenge exciting. An early March walk gave me 61 species including my only singing Mistle Thrush for the circle; this worries me. A great day watching Buzzards displaying are one of four species of bird of prey regularly seen. And the summer species are yet to arrive. But knowing I can walk and see Partridges and hear Yellowhammers singing gives me a bit of hope.

The garden sits in the epicentre of the 5km and that list -in and around now sits at a respectable 38. Happy days.

see Barys Book for more amazing photos

Review: The European Eel by Steve Ely.

What the publisher says:

80-page hardback (illustrated throughout with artwork by P.R. Ruby). Steve Ely’s The European Eel is a long poem that imagines the life cycle, ecological contexts and enigma of the charismatic and critically endangered fish of the poem’s title. Based on Ely’s in-depth engagement with the scientific literature, discussions with leading eel researchers and conservationists, and hands-on experience with the eel in river systems across the country and abroad, The European Eel is unique not only in its sustained birth-to-death focus on the eel, but in the vivid way the eel’s riverine and marine habitats are evoked and articulated—and in its portrayal of the daunting array of anthropogenic threats that are currently threatening this once common species with extinction. 

Extracts can be read here -as well as being able to buy a copy £12.99 +£1.99 P&P.

I have no knowledge worth sharing about fish. I know this is not the best way to start a review of Steve Ely’s amazing book. But I do have an endless fascination and some guilt when it comes to Eels. I will start with the guilt. More than the three birds eggs that made up my collection when I was eight, which I can never put back -Wren, House Sparrow and Greenfinch. Neither can I un-catch the Eels fished from their murky lairs.

What I think:

On a dry August day, whe Eels were much more common than they are today, an Uncle and I lifted the water trough of my Grandad’s chicken pen and found some damp ground; the only place we were likely to find any worms. We dug them, held them in a jam jar and and took them out in the cool of the evening to the Bannett and one of its reed lined pools just inside the sea bank at Blakeney, Norfolk. We managed to tempt two or possibly three unwieldy souls out of the ‘bottomless’ pond. He knew his wife, my aunt, would not want them so we took them to his mother. Alas, Nanny too did not want Eels for supper or any other meal. From the generation that wasted nothing, she boiled them, chopped them and fed them to the chickens. This should not have been the ending for these Eels.

And the endless fascination? While fishing I was given knowledge about this mythical beast and its travel to a mythical place -The Sargasso Sea to breed, as best my Uncle could remember it. I am pretty sure I also did see the results of this spawning as tiny elvers returned, but I cannot be sure.

Then came Rachel Carson -‘Under the Sea wind’ describing in the Autumn how an Eel who had lived the equivalent of more than half my life in Bittern Pond until the lure of the Ocean called. To me it was still remarkable that in the early 1900’s we had discovered the cycle of life adopted by Eels. and to think on the timescale of eons as to how evolution had worked on a species which even now we have not seen breed; just the results of such pairings. And like with so many other wild creatures we are watching in this 6th Extinction the demise of a species we still don’t fully understand.

I have previously bookmarked books about Eels but did not want to sift the science from another story of self exploration; however fascinating the science is, I was not going to plough through this? So thanks to a RT from @glaveneel I came across a link to the blog Steve wrote about his upcoming publication. He describes the perilous decline of the Eel, his fascination for it and the medium -book length poem, he is going to use to describe ‘The European Eel’. His previous exploration into this was Zi-Zi Taah Taah Taah -life of the Willow Tit.

The book is divided into four parts. The first describes -in long poem form, the passage of the Eel from the Sargasso through the Humber to Yorkshire. The biology and the human created obstacles including the water borne pollution are described in a way that really gives a feel for how precious and fragile an Eels existence is.

Part two describes the Eel the author kept one summer before returning it to make its journey to the Sargasso. For sciece purposes this was the insight he needed. But for me it brought back some of the feeling of guilt about how we treat wild creatures as exhibits in our show.

Part three returns to the long poem and the Eels return to the sargasso to spawn and die. You get a reall feel for teh journey and how the body of the Eel goes from a fish we recognise to a vesicle for eggs or milt.

Part four explains some of the terms and also explains that we still do not know exactly the Eeels story. Much of the early development from and around spawning is supposition. The insight of part four does not detract from the story and infact enhanced my understanding.

Anyone who spends their own money on a book and then reviews it is always going to say its a great read. And this review is no different. If you have any interest in this secretive fish or the environment we are creating for it, and by inference us, get a copy. If you have any interest in considering the ecological state of our waters and the impact our heavily medicated world has on everything else, challenge yourself with this book. How will you make the difference?

My only gripe is the use of lower case for species names, but upper case for man-made things. This in my mind devalues the other creatures around us. This should not however put you off from this valuable contribution to the discussion. Most of the book puts the Eel front and centre. Part two drifts into ‘new nature writing’ where the person becomes a character, but in my view an unnecessary one in this case.

I read it on the beach at Sennen looking out to the Sargasso and have returned to a wreck of Guillemots and Razorbills in the North East. Whilst the oceans are huge they are filling up with our waste and hubris. Using the science to tell an important story in an accessible manner should be the way forward in engaging more people about our plight.

A review: Naturally Connected

Its not every day that a book written by a long standing friend arrives on your mat. No prelude no warning other than an odd email saying I am working on a project and you will get to see the results soon. It can be bought for £18.50 from Bittern Books an East Anglian publishing company. Well worth the money IMHO. You can check out Barry at Wingsearch2020.

There are many critisism of current nature writing. I went here. I saw that. I went on a path of self discovery (and came out a better/changed person). This is not one of those kinds of books. What you get at the end section is the feeling that you have been into the field with a self-taught naturalist who really knows his stuff. You get the sense of childlike wonder of slowing down, stopping and looking at things as if for the first time. His words are backed up by amazing images on every page. A real treat.

But how do you review a book that you form part of the content -words and a photo?

From the book’s cover.

Do you love nature? Does your heart swell with joy at the sound of birdsong? Do you find yourself smiling when you see a colourful butterfly, or hear the screeching of returning Swifts?  Do you stand in awe at the spectacle of a field cloaked red with poppies? Do you fell the pulse of the wild?  Answer yes to any of these questions and this book is for you.  Embark on a journey of discovery and become truly Naturally Connected.

Naturally Connected combines Barry’s wonderful nature photographs with his writings in a splendid new book showing much of Norfolk’s spectacular wildlife, and some from further afield.  Barry is a lifelong resident of Norfolk where he developed a love of all things wild.   In this book he documents his experiences of searching for, photographing and just admiring the beautiful wild creatures he has been lucky enough to dicover in his native county, around the UK, Europe and much further afield.  Barry is a keen writer having over 300 published wildlife themed articles to his name.  These have appeared in various magazines, blogs and websites, some feature in updated form in this book, although a lot of material has been specially written.  He is keenly aware of the growing disconnect between modern day living and the natural world, and hopes this book will help people to become better connected with the splendour of nature.

After all we only need to look.

From reading the book.

Hopefully there will be no more lockdowns. But if it happens this is the book that will act as a lifebelt in turbulent seas. More likely though it is the book you will turn to on long winter nights or a train journey or any point when you are unable to get out and just be with wildlife.

Barry has distilled hours of being with birds, butterflies, dragons and mammals into 300+ pages of short descriptions of a place and a specific species. Norfolk is full of such wildlife rich areas it must have been hard to choose which ones made the cut. These stories are interspersed with amazing crystal clear photos taken by the author. This eclectic mix is how we view British wildlife, as seasons change and we range across different habitats.

This is not though just a catalogue of things he has seen or experiences he keeps to himself. He poses questions and leads you into his field experiences so much so that I felt I had been there when he was photographing owls hunting. He is leading you to look for yourself. He can invoke the feeling of cold when he is watching harriers and cranes coming to roost, but does not share the earie feeling of the long lonely walk back to the car after dark; you might not read on.

It is part history, from his first wildlife memories and working with John Butcher to run YOC groups in Norwich in the 80s when he and I first met. It is also part geography and illustrates well the changes in nature reserves in Norfolk. this includes the floods that reshaped Cley NWT. Its equally not all big picture items either as he is equally at home showing you around the life in his garden and what a treat that is. So much so that many Beaver Scouts may have had their firstly encounter with wildlife in Barry’s garden. It is this willingness to share, as an equal, his wildlife experiences with anyone who will listen that sets him apart from many who think just adding a species to a list is enough.

There is some listing involved and recounting of Big Days around Norfolk are great memories including the Lark Sparrow at Waxham that stayed a few days and we could plan to take it in. If it had been me I would have told the story of being lucky enough to get our day, Cley and Pacific Swift to be in the same venn diagram. But that may have detracted from Barry’s Pallid Swift find which is cautiously teased out in the book and illustrated with a great photo of the bird head on.

Barry has also illustrated listening as well as seeing. Here readers will be pleased to note he illustrated listening to bird song in the bath with a Robin and not himself. Images cant be unseen and we are all spared this.

His love of Norfolk is only part of the story -both as a adventure and as a volunteer at various reserves. He has also illustrated travels across five continents as he brings us close to birds an mammals that we all dream of seeing. I use one of these trips -Costa Rica to illustrate both his photography and his compassionate for the wildlife.

I watched a heart beating today, not my own or that of a any fellow human being, but that of a tiny bird.

Costa Rica, 2017 p254

This foreign travel is sprinkled with observations on conservation, climate change and young people being distracted away from wildlife experinces. They include anecdotes about altitude sickness and his ambition to see all the Bee-eaters, Rollers and Kingfishers of the world. You get a sense as well that Barry is consious of ecological disaster and shifting baselines as he dances through his own timeline. But he does this by taking his friends and family with him, and keeping them close. Reading these pages you too will feel part of the inner circle. Hopefully you to will also share and encourage future generations to get wet and dirty and take joy in being there and seeing things up close and personal too.

I onlyhave one regret and that is he did not put this picture of a rook carrying several acorns last autumn. Instead he went for a Jay to illustrate this. You make up your mind when you review the book.

It’s the little things that matter.

In the Spring as heather was still be burned up to its mid April legal deadline, it was clear the devastation was going to be extensive. To maintain heather moors for driven grouse shooting everything else is collateral damage. We fixate on the big things that are missing -killed and poisoned, the Hen Harriers are the flagship species absent from the wide horizons of most of upland England.

But alongside of the absence of the star species everything else also looses out too. And its the absence of little things that are fed upon by the bigger things that stops the world from turning.

We live in a post truth Orwellian world of double speak. So if this is the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty we would not expect to find anything natural. Drained and burnt we find a peat having the life dried out of it. I had the intention to revisit a Green Hairstreak site, but with cycles of burning have left nothing more than ankle deep. The lush deep Bilberry that feeds the caterpillars has been reduced to a few centimetres high with few flowers. I fear for this fragmented colony.

Bracken as the only sign of life.

So in 90 minutes I saw.

2 Curlew, probably with young.

3 Lapwing.

6 Meadow Pipits.

3 Red Grouse -one I nearly stood on

2 Buzzard, one with asymmetric wing feather moult (left wing) suggestive of gun shot.

4 bumble bees -2 species.

Solitary bees -including a large number of nomads.

3 Common Heath Moths

1 Green Tiger Beetle

1 Large White Butterfly

The absence of evidence is not evidence of absence as is often the case when hunting Hairstreak. So it was good to hear three had been seen earlier in May. But looking through the photos maybe on a different part of the hillside.

It is difficult to think that this land, out of sight of most, can be butchered to such an extent. Its hard when you only have a limited time to be out in nature -we are being told its good for us. So why would you spend time here with so little to fill the soul and make the heart sing. But go, just every now and again, and post your pictures. Then maybe just maybe we can get this changed.

Essential ingredients.

Do you remember having those nature tables at school? An adhoc collection of ephemera not a curated collection. The new lockdown has helped focus on those little things that catch your attention and demand more reflection. As yes, we still have all that time we wanted.

The best time to plant a tree is 30 years ago. So as most of our hedge and the trees in it pass into their thirtieth winter, now is a good time to take stock and review progress. It’s a mixed hedge, and apart from a Yew and a Holly deciduous. Even in winter, leafless, each species is distinct and recognisable. For those interested I see these 5 as essential ingredients -Hawthorn, Field Maple, Hazel, Elm -possibly Wych, and Hornbeam with its retained leaves.

Celebrating essential ingredients.

In a week that sees the greed destroy the 2020 Woodland Trust tree of the year and the indifference people have to the everyday it seemed a good time to start a adhoc nature table. It continues the theme of the last entry of not seeing the trees for the wood.

Elm; Hawthorn; Hazel; Field Maple; and Hornbeam.

The second best time to plant trees is now. I don’t need any more of these in my collection. However it is amazing to think that all these five twigs if stuck in the ground, with a little care, has potential to become a new tree. Go on treat yourself to a new project.

Even now, in January, all these, in close up show they are ready for the race to bring forth new life and new hope.

Hawthorn
Elm -this may be Wych Elm, but part of me has suspicions of it being a hybrid.
Field Maple.
Hazel buds already breaking open.

Hornbeam

Light and shadows.

Again this is not the blog I sat down to write. Perhaps the discipline of writing more regularly will prompt a better flow more of a focused approach and less ambiguity. Though by being ambiguous I may actually get to the point of what I want to do with this.

I wanted to write about trees. Under the banner of not seeing the trees for the wood it was going to be a piece on people like woods but an indiscriminate planting, or over use of one imported species is not acceptable. Its not a rant about the Woodland Trust who planted a site near me about 30 years ago. In good faith they probably chose Ash because there are Ash in the neighbouring woods. Did the stock arrive from abroad? They wont say, but you can guess it was, at least, not local.

They were not to know of the advance of Ash Die Back -none of us were then. But now the site is showing a slow death across its NE corner. This has always been an odd part of the site, numbered stakes still delineate what were presumably blocks for planting on this former arable field. They stand for what would normally be understorey but there are no shrubs in this mix. Roe deer may be holding back the seedlings; they are seen every visit now. Even across the stream there are only the planted trees, including Italian Alder (Alnus cordata). This still survives after last year’s thinning, of what appears to be a random range of species -the clump of eight firs survived the chop. Apparently, in this clear up they also took all the plastic tree guards from the site. Many remained. I complained. Many still remain. These have been added to. In the far west a new field stands proud with hundreds of plastic tubes. Life mirrors art mirrors life.

In places though seedlings are finding a foothold. Here and there the odd Oak and Hazel planted away from the parent tree, possibly by nature’s forester the Jay, as these seeds don’t blow in the breeze. Ash keys -witches fingers do blow. At the south end a thick tangle of seedlings up to the width of a thumb try to establish their right to dominate. Among them, will there be genetic material that fights of Hymenoscyphus fraxineus (formerly Chalara)? Only time will tell. There is hope.

What won’t appear randomly on the site are Elm trees. They will have been selected out in the mix as a risk from our first among equals -Dutch Elm Disease. Each wood around here has a few trees. A few are more than 1.85m as when I try to roughly measure than my hands don’t clasp together- this circumference alone would make them about 115 years old and possibly coming into life during the Great War. Many younger than this also shed seeds -samara, in early summer. The seeds grow easily in damp soil with plenty of light. Not a readily available environment in our unpredictable summers. an environment that is easy to create with peat-free compost and a plastic bag. Even if the conditions prevailed the Woodland Trust have placed their site too far for natural colonisation.

So from a handful of seeds, 20 Wych Elm stand 10cm high from their first summer. Some have been shared with friends. Others celebrated a liberation day and hide among the dying Ash. Planted in pairs, hiding in plain sight it is impossible to see the trees for the wood -marked only by what3words. It rained heavily after they were planted. I was pleased. Now the long wait. Nothing will happen months, their tight buds awaiting spring sunshine. Only then is worth going to see if this is a project worth pursuing. It is unlikely I will see them large enough to flower. So it is unlikely I will ever know if White-letter Hairstreaks arrive one July and lay eggs. But these two species have really grabbed my attention and it is worth trying. Time travel in a year when both these words mean something different.

Winter Lockdown #Gardenbirdrace FAQs.

No birder expected a return of the lockdown #gardenbirdrace. But needs must. For those of you new to lockdown #gardenbirdrace or those with short memories.

Q.  Do I have to use the full 24 hour period?

A. No use as much or as little as you think you need to post a winning score.

Q. Are you adjusting the score for inland or coastal gardens?

A. No.  You live where you live.

Q. Is there going to be another sweepstake to guess the total number of species seen?

A.  Yes your guess for total species seen on the day across all gardens needs to be in on 27th November by 5pm.

Q. Can I raise money for charity by getting people to sponsor me?

A. That’s a great idea, definite yes.

Q. Do I need to wear a mask?

A. No, you are in your own garden, but we are finding that they are good for keeping your face warm in cold conditions.

Q. Do I have to nominate a named driver?

A. No.  This is a solo (or at best shared with anyone you are currently locked down with) venture.  If you mean can I sit in my car and record birds from there.  Only if the car is on your drive which is also attached to your garden.  I understand it can sometime feel a bit weird standing out front with bins.

Q. How far can I go from the garden/house combo. and still count the birds I see?

A. Zero distance -clue is in the title.

Q.  Can I stand on tiptoes to see into a neighbour’s garden?

A.  Yes, but remember they may find this a bit weird.

Q. Can I go up a ladder and sit on the roof?

A.  You can and in May @Boltonbirder did.  He secured the best photo of a Med Gull whilst birding from his roof.  However, even he is checking the weather conditions first.

Q. If I find a rare bird does it have to be accepted by BBRC before it can go on my #gardenbirdrace list?

A. No, primarily because if you find a BBRC rarity you are not going to give two figs about this competition.

Q. Should I record my sightings in a notebook or on my birdtrack app?

A. It is well know that bird racers by 4pm have forgotten if they recorded and counted Greenfinch at 5am.  A notebook always allows a person to claim three days later that they won because they missed that one species.  Birdtrack does the opposite it prevents you entering a species twice.  The choice is purely personal but it would be great to get these records on birdtrack.

Q. Do I have to photograph or draw all the birds I see?

A.  If you are doing a full 24 hrs you have a lot of time to kill, so yes that would be a good idea.

Q.  Is there going to be a fancy dress prize this time?

A. No prize but don’t let that stop you choosing to wear clothing of your choice.

Q. If I notice some of my family are suffering emotionally from the lockdown and this #gardenbirdrace is not for them what can I do?

A.  There are a number of helpful resources at https://www.thecalmzone.net/ and http://www.stopsuicidenenc.org/ which may be helpful.

Q. Can I add species I would like to see in my garden to my #gardenbirdrace list?

A. What?  Baz, who’s writing these FAQs?  No. Definitely no.

Q. Can I do it on a different day and pretend it was done on the 28th?

A. No.  Busy? Doing what?

Q. The Northern Isles will get less daylight than southern England is there an adjustment for this?

A. No it gives mere mortals a chance to get into the top 10.

Q.  How will I know if I have won?

A. You have taken part and shared a great day.  You are already winning.

Q. What happened to those Wych Elm seedlings you grew from seed when you were looking for White-letter hairstreaks?

A.  Thanks for asking. I have 12 currently without homes and if you would like one DM me and I will send one in the post.

Q. When do I submit my results?

A. A full list of all species seen (complying with the rules) needs to be submitted before 1am on 29th November.

Have fun.  Stay safe. Be kind.