The story of May 9th 2020, Worldwide Garden Birdwatch day.

When I came up with the idea in mid April, I never dreamed May 9th would be such a successful day. My initial thoughts were to bring together birdwatchers across the world for a days birdwatching from their gardens, as that is pretty much the limitations of our birdwatching under the current circumstances.

It certainly served as a good distraction for 24hrs from what’s going on in the world and judging by the fabulous interaction on the day between people posting sightings on Facebook, the Whats app messages I received and feedback afterwards, it clearly gave many of us a much needed lift.

The opportunity to set up the Just Giving page for the RSPB was an obvious thing for me to do, as a previous employee and a volunteer for close on 20 years in various capacities, but I never expected the overwhelming generosity of your donations.

At the time of writing, we are just short of £1,700 and getting close to the £2,000 target. Thank you so much for your donations. We will leave the Just Giving Page open for another week or so.

I’ll be doing an additional blog with all the stats from the day, but to be getting on with…

A summary of May 9th 2020;

  • 02:00am BST – I got the first news of the day from Dhammi, our guide in Sri Lanka. It was 06:30am over there and he was starting to put a good list of birds together.

Dhammi using the opportunity to involve the local boys and girls

  • 03:00am – Time for me to get up and be ready for the dawn chorus, although it seems one of the local Robins beat me to it, first bird of the day! The street is quiet now after yesterday afternoons VE Day celebrations, just the bunting remaining
  • 03:40 – Get in, male Tawny Owl calling. Great news as this means I don’t have to try for one at the other end of the day, what a relief
  • 03:42 – A fox barking is quickly followed by a chattering magpie, maybe it was disturbed by the fox
  • 04:09 – The familiar calls of the local pair of Canada Geese.
  • 04:18 – The first Blackbird starts to sing atop a telegraph pole at the end of the road, first visible bird of the day
  • 04:20 – Song Thrush joins the chorus
  • 04:29 – “I don’t want to go”, the Wood Pigeons well known song
  • 04:31 – A Wren belts out its oversized song
  • 04:38 – Jackdaws on mass exit their nearby roost, probably upwards of 100 birds
  • 04:41 – It’s distant, but unmistakably a Cuckoo and only my second from the house in 15 years. Thats double figures and it’s not even light yet
  • 04:46 – Great Tit calling, followed by a Pheasant a minute later
  • 04:50 – A Carrion Crow flies through
  • 05:01 – The first Goldfinches of the day jingle overhead
  • 05:10 – Greenfinch makes its wheezing call
  • 05:11 – They’re coming thick and fast now, with Coal Tit, Dunnock and Blue Tit in quick succession, barely audible above the dozen or so Blackbirds singing now
  • 05:15 – Collard dove begins to call and with the light increasing the odd Starling flies through and a couple of Rooks
  • 05:20 – 28 degrees now in Sri Lanka, not so hot here yet, but looking like it will be a nice day.

05:25am – Hollywood sunrise… thats the one in Worcestershire, England, not the other one.

  • 05:25 – I can now hear the local House Sparrows cheeping
  • 05:35 – Calum Dickinson reports the first UK raptor of the day, Red Kite from his garden in Welwyn Garden City and shortly afterwards Frank McClintock in Portugal logs some mouth watering species
  • 05:53 – One of my local Lesser Black-backed Gulls drifts over, closely followed by a Stock Dove
  • 06:00 – The early risers in the UK are starting to send me their observations, perhaps others over did the VE celebrations the day before… Kathy O’Neill
  • 06:17 – A flight of Mallards reminiscent of Hilda Ogdans wall pass by, taking my total for the day to 25 species
  • 06:40 – News in of some good sightings from Geoff Laight in Serbia, including his first Wood Warbler
Geoffs list

Geoff Laight, pad and pencil at the ready

  • 07:01 – First UK wader of the day is a Curlew, among the first update from Holly Page in Waddington, Lancashire
  • 07:02 – I’m staying indoors a little while longer to see what birds visit the garden feeders and a good job I did. One of the local Great-spotted Woodpeckers takes some peanuts before posing nicely on the bird bath.

07:02 – Male Great-spotted Woodpecker shows up, that’s species 26 for the day for me

  • 08.01 – I’ve had to wait a whole hour for my next species, two Swifts bomb through against the blue sky.
  • 09:00 – Incredible £885 raised now for the RSPB, how high will this go?
  • 09:51 – My first raptor of the day, a pair of Common Buzzards drift over the garden, time to get the chair out me thinks…
  • 11:02 – From his compound in The Gambia our guide JJ has now clocked up 38 species for the day, with an evening session still to come.
The chair

10:30am – Time to get the chair out and study the sky

  • 11:20 – Scanning the sky pays off with a Sparrowhawk picked up gaining altitude above the garden.
  • 11:36 – Goodness where did that come from, its pretty high but that’s unmistakably a Cormorant and a first for me from the house. 30 species now for the day, 31 if I decide to include Feral Pigeon on my list… Stuart Griffiths is egging me on!
  • Midday UK time and we’re close to £1000 raised, so far I’m aware of 62 UK species recorded and 220 worldwide
  • 12:31 – Katinka & Will join us from Honduras in Central America, having already recorded some nice species from the dawn chorus there
  • 12:58 – A single House Martin overhead for me, certainly not a regular sighting
  • 13:36 – Dhammi wraps up the day with Collared Scops owl, a nice round 60 species from him in Sri Lanka including a few endemics.
Carol Haddows view

13:40 – Carol Haddows’ view over the River Trent, hoping for a Common Tern

  • 13:48 – Greg Curno posts a lovely bit of film of his House Sparrows enjoying the newly built pond. Eyes back on the sky Greg.
  • 14:02 – Peregrine, is it? I reach for my camera and loose sight of it, just didn’t get on it long enough with the bins to be sure, thats the one that got away today!
  • 14:05 – News from our friends in Scotland, they’re not having a great day of it weather wise, heavy rain is making life difficult to spot the birds. However Duncan MacDonald scopes what is probably the UK bird of the day, Parrot Crossbill
  • 14:10 – We’ve done it, £1068 raised now for RSPB and its not showing any signs of stopping yet.
  • 14:11 – Three large gulls overhead, yes Herring Gull, I’m up to 33 species now.
Megan in Birding Plumage

14:15 – Megan in full “Birding Plumage”, up to 28 species from Loughborough

  • 14:20 – Paolo Zucca one of our Italian contingent adds a singing Chiffchaff to his tally
  • 14:31 – News from Jordi in the Spanish Pyrenees of “the usual” 23 Lammergeiers, 10 Black Vulture, 3 Egyptian Vulture and 350 Griffon Vultures! Not to mention Golden, Booted and Short-toed Eagles! No wonder thats an annual trip for us.
  • 14:50 – Trying to work out roughly how many species we’ve seen nationally and internationally, but I think I’ll have to wait until the results are in from everyone, but looking like we’ll have some impressive numbers.
  • 15:39 – Finally a Swallow takes me up to 34
  • 16:00 – At last Suzanne Pricketts’ Coal Tit shows up!
  • 16:20 – I hear a Pied Wagtail, no make that 3, one over and two perch up on next doors roof to watch the intruder off their territory.
  • 17:00 – Elsie in Brazil contacts me to say she’s having a great day and has seen her 201st garden species, Eastern Slaty Thrush, thats one heck of a garden elsie and thats just in two and a half years!

“Come on, come on, just one more bird”…

  • 19:23 – “I cant imagine I’ll be getting any more now” I said, just as a Mistle Thrush flies calling low over the garden. 36 species, I’ve got to be happy with that in suburban Worcestershire.
  • 20:00 – I’ll give it a little longer, but our friends in the Americas still have some hours of daylight left.
  • 20:50 – The local Blackbird is in full song, pretty much calling time on my day of birding. Some of the regulars have escaped me today, Goldcrest, Jay and Nuthatch to name a few, but as Michael Jewel from Texas said earlier in the day “You can count the birds, but you can’t count on the birds”… Well said Michael.

I could have made this post 3 times longer, such was the input from expert and beginner birders from around the world, but I hope that gives you a good summary. I’ll be posting a separate blog detailing the amazing overall results of May 9th in a day or two, so I will keep you in suspense for now!

Thank you once again to everyone who has donated to the RSPB so far, but most of all for just getting involved, submitting your sightings and generally making this a day to remember.



5 thoughts on “The story of May 9th 2020, Worldwide Garden Birdwatch day.

  1. Thanks Ashley, your email makes good reading.  We thoroughly enjoyed the day – and the relaxed arrangements allowed us to do other things… like eat and drink! A nice rum punch would have gone down well but hey ho, gin and tonic comes a close second. Looking forward to seeing the final list for the day and dream of being elsewhere in the world.  Did I mention we’ve booked a fortnight in Costa Rica in November… anyone’s guess whether we’ll get there. Thanks again, and for staying in touch, I really do appreciate it. x


    • Glad you enjoyed the day Lynn. You didn’t have Rum Punch, well thats just bad planning lol. Costa Rica, nice… But I don’t run a holiday to Costa Rica 😉 Well I hope things are moving again well before then for everyones sake. Should you have to miss out and still fancy Central America, I have a lovely holiday to Honduras in March you might be interested in 🙂 Thanks again for taking part on Saturday x


  2. odd missings here in nth Norfolk, song thrush, coal tit and long tail tit could normally be guaranteed but the RLP`s and a surprise linnet picking up gravel one assumes from the road….finished off before lights out with a visit from Spike, our hedgehog companion Good day….

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: The Results from the Worldwide Garden Birdwatch, May 9th, 2020. | ashleys analogs

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