Monday 13 April 2020

Lockdown Birding

These are indeed strange and difficult times. The Covid-19 pandemic has impacted our lives in ways a few months ago we could not have imagined. I can only hope that anyone reading this has not lost loved ones to the virus. Whilst the restrictions are difficult to live under, they are necessary and will hopefully bring us back to something resembling normality sooner rather than later.
Every aspect of daily life has been hit by the pandemic, including birding. But, that is a very, very minor inconvenience in the grand scheme of things.
In times like this you have to adapt. At least its still possible to take some outdoor exercise each day, so I'm able to walk around my local patch of Bowthorpe / West Earlham Marsh. In fact I'm giving this far more attention than I ever did and am rather enjoying that. So far, I have had at least ten singing Chiffchaffs, about four singing Blackcaps plus two females earlier today. Yesterday I had the first Sedge Warblers of the spring and the first Willow Warbler there for several years. The local House Martins have returned too and will hopefully start breeding soon. I have joined a Whatsapp group run by an old birding friend in Ireland called "2kmfromhome" (as the restriction in Ireland means you should not exercise any more than 2km beyond your home). There's about ten of us in the group, eight in Ireland, me in Norwich and one person in an apartment in the centre of Barcelona. Its a bit of fun and we are also using our regular 'nocmig' activities to add species to our 2km patches. I'm hoping to add Common Whitethroat, Garden Warbler and Hobby to my list in the next few weeks. There's a chance of Cuckoo, Grasshopper Warbler and Lesser Whitethroat and after that who knows! So far my list is at 61.
I've also had a go at 'noc-migging' or Noctural Migration to give its full title. This invovles recording what passes over your garden at night and the next day analysing the sound files to try and determine what species it is. I use this Olympus LS4 PCM recorder.

Olympus LS4 PCM recorder

I place it in a small plastic chinese take-away container and seal it with cling-film to keep out the rain, wind noise and any condensation. So far, I have recorded Redwing, Blackbird, Robin, Herring Gull, Oystercatcher and garden ticks in Water Rail, Moorhen and Golden Plover.

And lastly, there has been 'Project Swift'. An earlier attempt in 2017 to attract Swifts to nest was unsucessful. There have been a pair nesting under the roof of my next door neighbours, so I feel there's a chance I can attract some to nest in our house if I provide a nest box. I was concerned that the only available positions were either south or east facing. Both affected by direct sunlight. I found a company called Impeckable and they made me a four-chamber Swift nest box from fibreglass. It's pale colour will help reflect light rather than absorb it and I ordered a canopy with it to protect the Swiftlets from direct heat and driving rain. To give myself a chance of attracting Swifts, I also purchased a cheap and cheerful speaker and mp3 player from Amazon. were able to provide an mp3 file (for the small sum of £2) of Swifts calling from nest-boxes. I will place the speaker on the window ledge below the nest box and play Swift calls from when they arrive. Fingers crossed they like it.