Friday, 31 January 2014

Hilly Fields Big Birdwatch 2014: The Results

It rained. Not heavily but fairly persistently throughout our Big Birdwatch event on 26 January. Were we downhearted? No. After all, we're British and used to it, especially this winter. We set out our stall under the sheltering roof of the cafe, stiffened our upper lips and got on with it. And thankfully people came along, many bringing their children to experience that unique phenomenon known as 'the outdoors'. Lard and seed were moulded into fatballs and hung from nearby trees, bird badges were made and, as always, people either took a survey sheet and went round by themselves or came round on one of the guided tours. And by the end of the event, we'd seen 20 species, only one less than last year which considering the weather is a bloomin' miracle.

Bird badge making
Two species tied for highest number present: the Starling and the Black-headed Gull at 50 each. When it comes to ranking them though, I'm going to put the Starling first because there were so many flitting through the trees around the playground (and some on the ground as well) that I'm sure 50 was an underestimate. Next came the Common Gull with 16 being the max count, then a wonderful flock of 12 Goldfinches outside the school which, at one point, rose up together from the ground with a spectacular 'whoosh!'. There were also a pair of Greenfinches with them which are always nice to see (their numbers have fallen in recent years) and we had some very clear views of a Great Spotted Woodpecker just outside the wood and 2 cute little Long-tailed Tits in the garden next to the bowling green.

Starlings [Stock photo]
The full list is as follows:
  1. Starling - 50+
  2. Black-headed Gull - 50
  3. Common Gull - 16 
  4. Goldfinch - 12 
  5. Feral Pigeon - 7 
  6. Wood pigeon - 5 
  7. Blue Tit, Crow - 4 of each
  8. House Sparrow - 3
  9. Blackbird, Great Tit, Greenfinch, Long-tailed Tit, Magpie, Robin - 2 of each
  10. Chaffinch, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Mistle Thrush, Ring-necked Parakeet, Wren - 1 of each

The gulls are a major presence in the park at the moment and we're still being asked how you tell Black-headed and Common apart. There are various distinguishing features but the simplest details to remember are as follows:
  • Black-headed Gull - red legs and bill, black spot next to the eye
  • Common Gull        - yellow (or greenish-yellow) legs and bill, slightly bigger
The Black-headed Gull has a white head in autumn and winter and a dark chocolate brown head in spring and summer when it's breeding. From a distance that can look black, which is how it got its name.

Common Gull left, Black-headed Gull right  at Hilly Fields
Thanks are due to Rachel from the Friends of Hilly Fields and Judith from Glendale who ran the stall, to my fellow bird champions Sue, Keith and Terry, to Rachel Hale for bringing the badge making kit, to Fred and Ruth from the cafe and to our ever helpful parkie, Lee. Our next bird event will be the famous Hilly Fields Dawn Chorus Walk (oh, stop groaning) on a date yet to be fixed in late March/ early April. See you all then!


  1. That's a great update, it'll be dawn chorus time, before we know it.

    1. Thanks Hilly. I'm thinking early April though we should probably avoid the 1st...

  2. Trying to find numbers for the Big Bird Watch to send for the BAPS stats (Biodiversity Action opposed to the bread variety) Suppose I'll have them somewhere...another job!