My all time garden day record was until recently 30 species. I realise that garden day listing could be considered a pretty niche concept, but birders are a nerdy lot and this kind of thing is to be expected. I set it back in 2010 when I was not working and had oodles of time on my hands. It was in August so I expect that I just left the children to run wild in the garden and forage for food while I concentrated on the sky. Since then I have never really come close, a couple of days in the high twenties but that's it. Did I even attempt it again? I'm not sure. I may not have done, let's face it I would rather be out birding somewhere. So what more of an excuse do I need that this current enforced period at home? Will there ever be a better time than lockdown? This Saturday just gone I decided to find out.
In short it was a walk in the park. Well, you know what I mean. Within an hour and a bit the record was gone. I've subsequently tried it on two other mornings and found it similarly easy to get to 30 in the same timeframe. I suspect that I've always been on an actual walk in the park and only started in the garden later when things have stopped singing, or completed their morning commute.
On the morning in question I was on the balcony at 6.30am. The gardens around here are mature and so this is a reliable spot for all the regulars. There are singing Blackbirds, Blue Tits, Dunnocks and Wrens, and at the moment there is an audible Chiffchaff somewhere to my west. I can also hear Song Thrush early in the morning, and of course Woodpigeons, Collared Doves, Parakeets and so on are all over the place. Early morning also seems good for some of the larger birds, and I was able to add Canada Goose, Egyptian Goose, Grey Heron and both Woodpeckers flying over.
Blackcap was in the gardens to the front, as well as the regular Coal Tit and House Sparrows, and Jackdaws breed in the chimneys, so it was not a great surprise to surpass my prior total before breakfast. Great Tit proved surprisingly hard, as did Chaffinch. Like all good days there were some birds I don't regularly get - two Rook west were only my third garden record. I also managed to scope Stock Dove in the local wood - they hardly ever visit my garden.
By mid morning I was on 38, with the first Sparrowhawk and Buzzard of the day, and then a pair of Mute Swan on the stroke of 11. This is when it starts getting a lot harder, the targets dry up and of course the middle of the day just isn't as good anyway.
Linnet was added after lunch for 39, a single bird west, and I finally found a hovering Kestrel distantly over Wanstead Flats a short while later for 40. There then followed an immense period of seeing nothing new at all - lots of Buzzard activity and Sparrowhawks all over the place, but the hoped-for Red Kite never put in an appearance (although on Monday when I was working and not birding two brief glances out of one of the skylights added four of the cheeky so-and-sos, including three together!) The only further diurnal addition was a Peregrine towards or over the Olympic Park for number 41 - I needed a scope for this. 42 is a number that I would more easily be able to remember, so I partook in some late evening nocmigging and scored Coot. It also scored Moorhen after I had gone to sleep, which would have been a garden first had I been awake. I'm not too worried, we have months of this to look forward to.