by Ann Elisabeth Laksfoss Cardozo, University of Stavanger
On the last weekend of January, I participated in the Norwegian garden bird count for the third time. The first year, I did not put out any food. Consequently, I got two magpies and one crow. That was it. Actually, I had not really understood the whole thing, so I only posted about it on Facebook.
However, the second time I understood that a buffet for the birds was the way to go. I hung out a feeder in my big garden tree, and provided sunflower seeds, peanuts and fat balls. And I recorded all my findings, both from my garden and also from a wood nearby. I had a bullfinch, starlings, great tits and blue tits. I also had a gorgeous robin.
This year I had put out even more food and sat outside for an hour and a half, on a bench under the veranda, with binoculars, a camera, the bird guide and a notebook. I was thrilled at getting 15 species. A greenfinch couple, a chaffinch couple, 18 starlings, 20 house sparrows and 10 tree sparrows, a robin, a wren, a blackbird, several blue tits and great tits, two magpies and two hooded crows, one brambling, two collared doves and one common wood pigeon. This also illustrates my learning process across a relatively short time span. It is so much more rewarding to watch birds when one is capable of distinguishing between the female and male sparrow, and the sparrow and the brambling.
I discovered that the starlings love the fat balls, that the sparrows quarrel a lot, and that the brambling is very cautious. I also enjoy observing how fast the tits move from the feeder to safer places. I understand why, after one day I even saw a sparrowhawk in my garden. It was looking for breakfast… luckily for my beloved tits they made it into a safe space. However, I do hope the hawk also got food. The sheer speed of that hawk amazed me. It came into my garden like a fighter plane and in less than a couple of seconds it was gone again.