It was the Big Garden Birdwatch the weekend before last, and the most amazing thing happened. I sat there at my living room window, and counted lots of birds!
Yes, I know that’s what’s supposed to happen. I’m even prepared to believe that’s most people’s experience when they take part in the RSPB’s annual count of avian wildlife.
It’s just not what normally ever happens to me!
Year after year I’ve taken part, along with families and individuals across the country, in this fun feathered head-count. And year after year, the little winged blighters have never basically turned up when I’ve chosen to count them.
It was like they knew, and didn’t appear deliberately, out of a sense of mischief. Yes, I know that sounds mad – feather-brained, even – but how else do you account for the fact that whenever I chose an hour to do a count in the Big Garden Birdwatch weekend, I’d sit there, binoculars in hand, staring eagerly ... at an empty garden.
Well all right, eventually I’d get one or two turn up – probably by accident, ones that forgot they weren’t supposed to show. But the majority were clearly taking the mick, because our garden’s normally full of ’em, and yet for the Birdwatch hour, you could practically see tumbleweed rolling across the lawn.
But not this year. Which was nice. If pretty shocking, frankly.
It didn’t start well. I got up (always helps), drew back the blinds, grabbed my bins (sorry, binoculars – lapsing into birder techno-speak, there), and a coffee ... and stared at a completely empty garden.
Uh-oh, here we go again, I thought. Not a sausage. Or even a bird, which, let’s face it, would be better.
Conditions are good, too – bright and sunny, with just a bit of David Jason on the ground (sorry – I mean a touch of frost). But the bird baths aren’t even frozen, and the fat-ball and seed feeders are well stocked.
Still a great fat zero on the bird-count front, though. As usual!
But then suddenly it all kicked off.
What was that? A great tit? Where are those bins? Blast, it’s moved! Not fast enough. Me, I mean – the little feathered blighter was way too fast. No, wait, look, there’s a blue tit! And look – that’s a coal tit on the seed feeder! Crikey, a coal tit! How exciting is that? Pretty exciting by my standards, I can tell you!
And there’s a woodpigeon! Well, inevitably I suppose, but the more the merrier. And there’s a pair of robins! Not just one, but a pair! Crikes alive, it’s like Piccadilly Circus out there!
And so it went on. Unlike my normal experience, when a basically bird-free hour dragged by in what seemed like days, this watch, well, positively flew by! My final count was nine different species, which is probably normal for many folk, but is a veritable world record for me.
I’m tempted to think it’s because I made an earlier start this year. Does the early bird catch ... well, the birds? Hmm, I don’t know, because I kept glancing out of the window after the end of my allotted hour, and the garden was deserted.
So my scientific explanation for this year’s unprecedented success is ... pure luck!