by Wessel Ganzevoort, Radboud University
This was my second year participating in the Dutch National Garden Bird Count, marketed as the biggest citizen science project in the country. Last year a record-high 200,000 people participated, and there was an ambition to go even beyond that; while that didn’t succeed, the total number of participants still reached 170,000+, nothing short of impressive.
Like last year, I prepared myself by leafing through an online garden bird identification course, which is offered free by the Dutch Vogelbescherming, along with another bird identification course designed by one of my interviewees from the EnviroCitizen fieldwork. Before going to bed we refilled our bird feeder with seeds, peanuts, and special peanut butter for birds. The next morning, I positioned myself in front of our balcony for 30 minutes (after removing an indignant cat from the chair) and placed my binoculars, field guide and laptop for submitting the sightings close by. Now all I needed was birds to identify!
Unfortunately, the garden birds apparently missed the memo. While last year’s score wasn’t amazing (two great tits, one blue tit, one blackbird and one crested tit) this year all I could record were two blue tits. Interestingly, while great tit and blue tit are some of the most common species and very easily distinguishable in a field guide, it did strike me how identifying them in motion isn’t nearly as easy. The two blue tits demonstrated some entertaining foraging behavior, but it was still a rather meagre catch, especially since we get some very interesting birds on our balcony, including great spotted woodpeckers and nuthatches. Of course, the scientist in me knew that meagre records can be just as interesting to submit.
As shown above, after the classic house sparrow and great tit, this year the blackbird just barely edged out the blue tit and reentered the top 3. This is interesting since their numbers had dwindled a bit; 2022 has been declared the Year of the Blackbird for that reason, and we hope to play a small part in that event in the context of Work Package 3. Finally, it seems mother nature felt a little sorry for me after such a small yield, so after submitting my data a whole swarm of redwings visited a nearby tree, allowing me to appreciate them through my binoculars. I couldn’t include them in the count, but they did make my day.