The Big Garden Bird Watch 2018

Run by the RSPB, The Big Garden Birdwatch takes places over 3 days between 27th-29th January.  It is a chance for everyone to go outside and watch the birds for 1 hour, counting the largest number of bird species seen at one time.

chaffinch BGBW2018


I got up early on Monday the last day of The Big Garden Birdwatch count.  I got my wildlife camera, binoculars and spotting scope and was ready to step out of the door;  when… absolutely poured it down with rain.  Why on earth did I not do the count on Sunday I grumbled to myself as I checked the weather app on my phone? It gave rain all morning but it was meant to stop at lunchtime….phew!
At 12pm the rain stopped and I ran outside to take part in the bird count.  I was hoping that maybe this year I would see starlings as they returned to the garden last year for the first time in many years.  I hoped the woodpecker would turn up as I know it is always in the garden pecking away at an elderly plum tree.  I also wondered if there may be any surprise visits too, as you never know what will turn up in the garden when you are least expecting it.

blackbird BBW2018


There are so many feeders in the garden all dotted about in various places which makes it a challenge to try and count the birds.  I managed to set up my spotting scope behind a shed where I could get a view of at least most of the feeders; but I still felt like I needed eyes in the back of my head as I turned this way and that watching the birds.  I put my wildlife camera on a tree next to a feeder at the bottom of the garden, then I sat behind the shed and waited.

sparrow BGBW2018


During the hour that I was outside, the weather was cloudy with some sunny spells but an icy wind.  Counting started immediately as most of the birds here are used to my presence.  Many robins sang loudly on the top of the hedges trying to mark their boundary.  They must be quite tolerant robins here as I have seen 3 pairs but today for the count I just saw 2 pairs.  Whilst I was trying to count the sparrow in the hedge, I saw 2 male blackbirds fighting on the lawn whilst a female blackbird watched close by.  The poor loser sat hiding in the hedge afterwards looking sorry for himself.
I saw a blackcap for the first time in the garden, it was feeding on the coconut fat feeder at the bottom of the garden and a few yards away from me a tiny little goldcrest flew down and had a little bath in the pond before flying up the hobnut tree above, shaking itself off and flying off.

grt tit BGBW2018

Great Tit

It’s a shame the woodpecker didn’t make an appearance in that hour, but glad in a way that I didn’t see the sparrowhawk as all the other birds would have hidden like last year.

bluetit BGBW2018

Blue Tit

All in all, it was a good year for spotting birds and a lot better than last year.  It’s great to see the difference each year I do the count and it always nice to say hello to new species too.

Biggarden birdwatch chart 3years

My Bird Count 2018:
7 blackbirds        2 long tailed tits      5 dunnocks      12 sparrows        2 greenfinches
7 chaffinches      1 moorhen               2 rooks               3 jackdaws         1 blackcap
2 seagulls            4 wood pigeons       7 bluetits            2 great tits          2 collared doves
1 wren                 4 robins                     1 goldcrests

A stroll around the village

I woke up the other day to a very cold icy morning.  The temperature was -6C and there was ice on the inside of my bedroom window.  It was bitter and I thought of just staying in all day trying to keep warm.

Thankfully by mid morning the sun was trying it’s best to shine as bright as it could, as it peeped out from behind the clouds.  Now the ice had gone, I decided it would be a great day for a stroll; so I headed off for a short walk around Upton village by Chester and learnt a bit about the history of the village as I walked by.

Wrapped up warm I started my short walk at the old village pump. 

Before Chester waterworks brought water to the village of Upton in the late 1800’s, the residents used to get their water from this pump.  It is believed to be over 200 years old but it is no longer in use and surrounded by railings.  Only ivy cascades over the stone basin at the bottom of the pump now instead of water.

From here I carried on walking down the road looking up at the bare winter trees, taking note of their different textured bark, and listening to the birds twittering amongst the hedges as I passed.  I then came to a bowl shaped area of grass which was covered by a layer of brown and yellow leaves.

This depression in the ground is locally known as The Cock Pit.  It was originally part of the Victoria Hotel garden, and rumour has it that cock fighting used to take place here. There is however little evidence to say that such things happened here and the depression is more likely to be whats left of an old sand pit. 

I followed the little winding path through the Cock Pit and up to Upton church.  As I entered the churchyard, I saw a male blackbird scratting amongst the fallen leaves for grubs and a robin was perched upon a branch singing such a sweet song. 
Walking up to the wall of the church, I saw a Plague Stone, which is also known as a Wealstone.  This stone used to be in a wall at Upton Cross before being moved to the church in the mid 1900’s. 
The original position for the stone however, was on what is known as Butter Hill near Chester zoo.  It was here that it was used as a Plague Stone.  People from infected areas came to the Plague Stone and placed money in the bowl which contained disinfectants. In exchange for this money, food was then placed on the stone for them to collect.

Not far from the church is one of the oldest buildings in Upton and is built on the site of the Man in the Moon pub which can be seen on a 1735 map.
The front of the building says a date of 1745, but the house is thought to be older than this.  Obviously as with most buildings there have been alteration through time such as the gothic windows (which I love) and a raised roof.

Upton is well known for being the home of Chester zoo but there are lots more little interesting features around Upton as I’m sure there is where you live.  I could have spent ages out but the sky was getting dim and thick with cloud, and I could feel that biting cold in the breeze.  As I didn’t think I’d see Mr Sun again that day I decided to make my way back home making one final stop along the way.

The last stop on my stroll around the village was this lovely little lodge house.
I just love the little dragon on top of the roof and there are similar dragons on a lodge house in Hoole village not far from here too.  Apparently it is said that roof dragons ward off evil spirits and bring good luck.

I really enjoyed my little winters day stroll.  It’s actually the first walk I’ve been on since injuring my foot and of course the first walk of a new year.

I’m looking forward to many more walks this year and can’t wait to see what i’ll find when I’m out and about.