The Garden List

Autumn colour is everywhere right now but it’s hard not to be impressed by some of the landscapes that Autumnwatch has served up from New England recently. There really has been some impressive vistas and the forest colours are simply stunning. It’s only to be expected that in such a diverse and rich habitat that the average New England garden birder might expect twice as many species over the course of the year as we can manage in a typical British garden.

Many of these species will have a familiarity to garden birders here as there are several branches of similar families. Nuthatches and Chickadees have more than a whiff of the familiar when compared to our own native Nuthatch and tit family. Of course it’s the woodpeckers and the sparrows where garden birders over the the other side of the Atlantic really score highly. Twice as many species of woodpecker, many of which visit garden feeders and the ‘sparrows’ are too numerous to mention, if you think sorting out House Sparrow and Tree Sparrow is an identification challenge then American ‘Sparrows’ can be a massive culture shock to the system.

All of this had me thinking about the Garden List. We all keep a list of birds we’ve seen in the garden don’t we? Even if it isn’t written down I think the majority of birdwatchers know when something new that they haven’t seen before turns up. Most might have made an attempt at a written list, maybe stuck to the fridge door or kitchen noticeboard! For serious birders a garden list might include birds seen from the garden, perhaps flying over or perched up nearby but not necessarily in the garden.

In my own garden this has allowed me to add Osprey, Quail, Tawny Owl, Little Owl, Greenshank, Pink-footed and Barnacle Geese and even Mediterranean Gull. All of these have either flown over, passed within spitting distance or have been heard calling affording the chance to add them to my ‘garden list’. The Osprey required a sprint Usain Bolt would have been proud of to grab some binoculars and make sure of the identification as it drifted by after spotting it while walking back from local shops.

How many garden birds are on your list and do you count fly-overs too? Would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.


Our Garden Birder’s Diary is written by Northumberland-based birder Alan Tilmouth who has been birdwatching for over 30 years and writing about birds in various guises for the last decade. A keen garden birdwatcher, he also manages to unearth the odd rare bird on his travels. You can find Alan on Twitter and his Facebook blog.