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On Wednesday we took advantage of the beautiful evening sunshine with a walk around the RSPB nature reserve at Middleton Lakes.

We often visit the nature reserve to see the heronry, the active bird feeders, the lapwing conservation area, the friendly robins and the rest of the beautiful woodland and walks. It’s so fantastic that we have such a great reserve just ten minutes from our house.

On this occasion, we were lucky to add two new birds to our life list…

Firstly, a bird that we heard before we saw… the cuckoo. As we were walking along the woodland path, I heard it’s distinctive call. When we arrived at the viewing area over the silt lake, I could tell what direction the call was coming from, and sure enough I saw it at the top of a tree through the binoculars. It reminded me of a cross between a pigeon and a bird of prey, like a sparrowhawk.

The second bird was in the reeds beside the lake. It was a bird that I didn’t recognise and was very distinctive with it’s black head, white collar and brown body. A quick check on the RSPB bird identifier told us it was a reed bunting. I often struggle with identifying warblers and buntings, but now that I know what the reed bunting looks like, I don’t think it’s one i’ll forget.

Reed Bunting (image credit: Tony Hisgett, Birmingham, UK)

Reed Bunting (image credit: Tony Hisgett, Birmingham, UK)

Another highlight of the walk (and a common feature of our trips to Middleton), was the super-friendly robin. Despite being fiercely territorial birds, there are a lot of them at Middleton, and they know where to find the feed from the visitors. We took along some meal worms to tempt them a little closer… and it worked.

So this happened this evening 🙂 #rspb #rspbmiddleton #middletonlakes @rspb_love_nature

A video posted by Eleanor Lovell (@ellielovell) on

When we returned home from our walk, we discovered from Springwatch Unsprung that the robin had won the vote as Britain’s National Bird. Fitting given our earlier encounter.

It’s been a while since I picked up a pencil and drew something. But that changed this week… I bought a new sketchbook and started drawing.

And i’m enjoying it (and am quite pleased/surprised with the results).

Drawing of a Starling

My attempt at a Starling

I used to love art at school, and I almost chose it at A-level after doing it at GCSE. But I didn’t. And when I didn’t have to draw, I stopped choosing to draw.

It’s always been something that I wished I’d continued (or wished i’d return to) and i’m pleased that i’ve started, and i’m hoping to continue!

It’s a great way to relax and reflect on the things that I enjoy. You will notice that birds feature quite prominently.

This week's drawings

This week’s drawings

I’m still experimenting with different styles, and i’m hoping to try out a lot more (i’m sure with mixed results!).

Today I added a new bird to our list of garden visitors – the Jay. And not just one, but two.

In our old flat, we would regularly see Jays in the tall Beech tree outside the window. But our visitor today was exploring the garden footpath and even jumped up on to the bird feeder to see what was available.

Jay (Luc Viatour / www.Lucnix.be)

Jay (Luc Viatour / www.Lucnix.be)

That takes the current species count up to 23:

  1. Robin
  2. Wren
  3. Dunnock
  4. House Sparrow
  5. Blue Tit
  6. Great Tit
  7. Coal Tit
  8. Long-tailed Tit
  9. Blackbird
  10. Starling
  11. Goldfinch
  12. Chaffinch
  13. Greenfinch
  14. Blackcap
  15. Chiffchaff
  16. Willow Warbler
  17. Bullfinch
  18. Great Spotted Woodpecker
  19. Magpie
  20. Wood Pigeon
  21. Jackdaw
  22. Sparrowhawk
  23. Jay

I’ve always been a bird-lover.

As a child, my parents took me on lots of walks with the binoculars and the bird book. I didn’t realise at the time that I was learning so much, and I am now quite proud of my ability to tell a Blackbird from a Blackcap.

I get a lot of enjoyment from seeing my feathered-friends in the garden, and whilst as a teenager I used to hide my bird knowledge, I am now happy to embrace and share it with others.

I’m so lucky that we have a lot of bird visitors to our garden in Sutton Coldfield. By my reckoning, we’ve had over 20 different species of bird in our back garden since we moved in at the start of February 2015.

Firstly, the usual garden suspects – the Robin, Wren, Dunnock, House Sparrow, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Coal Tit, Long-tailed Tit, Blackbird, and Starling.

A pair of Goldfinches

A pair of Goldfinches

Next up, the slightly less usual suspects… The Goldfinches are a daily visitor to our nyger seed feeders – one day I counted as many as 11. We’ve also had the Chaffinch, Greenfinches and a Blackcap. Just today, I was sat at the top of the garden beneath our blossom trees and the Blackcap was just metres over-head, checking out the flowers for insects.

The Chiffchaff and the Willow Warbler are the next on the list. The Chiffchaff (recognisable by it’s call) has been spotted once, but it’s hard to distinguish from some of the less common warblers. So when I saw what I assumed was a Chiffchaff but without any chiffing or chaffing I had to look it up online. I’m pretty sure it was the Willow Warbler.

Next up, my best spots – the Bullfinch and the Great Spotted Woodpecker. The bold and bright Bullfinch visited the garden on 24th March. I assumed it was a one-off, but I have seen it a couple more times since, along with the female (recognisable from it’s more muted colours). The male recently visited the bird feeders whilst we were pottering around in the garden. Obviously not quite as shy as I thought.

And perhaps the visitor who bought the most excitement – the Great Spotted Woodpecker. On Easter Sunday (5th April), my parents were visiting for dinner, and Mom spotted it enjoying it’s Sunday lunch on the fat ball feeder. It’s visited a couple more times since and one day visited three times for breakfast, lunch and dinner!

Finally, the bigger birds – the Magpie, Wood Pigeon and Jackdaws. Our house has three chimneys, and two of them have Jackdaws nests (as do many of the other chimneys in the road)! I’ve also seen a male Sparrowhawk sitting on the garden fence – as beautiful as he is, I hope he’s not a regular visitor!

Last but not least, one of my favourite birds – the Buzzard. There’s a nature reserve not far away so we often see up to three Buzzards circling high above the garden. And sometimes they are much lower in the sky, at which point the Jackdaws mob them and chase them from their territory.

I think that makes 22 in total. I haven’t included the Buzzard in my bird count since it’s not technically in my garden. Maybe one day it will be (but I doubt it).