It’s National Garden Bird survey weekend ( Jan 27th and 28th ) here in France organised by the LPO and national museum. A few clicks on the computer will log you into the Observatoire des Oiseaux des Jardins website, add a “garden” (like a profile), and key in your data. http://www.oiseauxdesjardins.fr
This will allow you to record all the birds that you see in a one hour slot on Saturday or Sunday . This annual snap shot of the country allows the naturalists to really see the numbers and diversity of the birds that share our gardens with us across they country. This year they are particularly interested in hawfinches, coal tits, and bramblings.
I haven’t seen much of my regular coal tit this year and fear he has simply been blown away in the awful and continuous winds that have battered us this winter. A stocky parrot like hawfinch visited once this year but I think the weather has been too warm for more than the odd brambling to stray south from Scandinavia.
This weekend I did a dry run of observing the birds for a full hour and the hardest thing was actually sitting still and giving my whole attention to birds feeding around the bird table and not allowing myself to be distracted by the messy kitchen! There were no surprises, but I found that great tits, when full of peanuts from the feeder, will sit on one tiny black leg to digest their meal and the solitary coal tit is actually three individual birds and that we get up to 11 tree sparrows (with their chocolate cheek markings) who, unlike their house sparrow neighbours , can hang upside down on a fat ball. I recommend having binoculars, pen and paper and a cup of tea to hand when you start your one hour watch and then you can really enjoy uniterupted peaceful observation of the busy lives of birds.
The wind has brought down so many trees, that I am surprised there are any birds left. When an oak tree came crashing down in the fiercest storm a red squirrel ran across our lawn disoriented and homeless.
Near our village is a beautiful ephemeral stream . It only runs when the water table is completely full and most of the year the water sinks back into the porous Jurassic limestone and flows underground . After a spell of rainy weather I like to check if it is running, but most often I am disappointed as the rain is absorbed by the grateful forest, leaving nothing to see. After the daily déluges of this winter however, it is finally above the ground, flowing strongly and tumbling clear from one green pool into another, glimsed lovely between the trees.
There are some compensations for the cloudy skies!