Lockdown Birdwatching Walks: Birdwatching in your Bubble

Lockdown has been a trying time for all of us.

It's difficult to see the positives when you're stuck in your house all day with the only time you can leave is for essential items or exercise. 

Those of us in Hollywood and Wythall are blessed with having nature right on our doorstep, but walking the same route can get boring. 

But Ashley Grove, owner of Experiencing Nature can help you with that. 

"For those of us who have stayed healthy through this pandemic, the most challenging thing has probably been “Lockdown”, confining ourselves at home for weeks on end, with perhaps just the odd walk around the neighbourhood.

"As the owner of ‘Experience Nature’, I’d normally be guiding groups of wildlife watchers, on overseas holidays during the Spring and Summer, but all that came to a grinding halt shortly after I arrived back from Honduras in mid March."

With Ashley suddenly having a lot more time on his hands he started paying more attention to the wildlife in his garden. 

"Ever one to make the best of a bad situation, I began to pay closer attention to the birdlife that was visiting our Hollywood garden and additionally passing overhead. It was Spring after all, so birds were starting to arrive in the UK from their overwintering grounds in Southern Europe and Africa.

"I started keeping a daily log of the birds I could identify by sight and call from the garden, or from my home office window while I worked and was soon collating quite a list of bird species, with plenty of surprises."

"We feed the birds regularly, so were seeing daily sightings of the usual suspects, Goldfinches, Greenfinches, Blackbird, Robin, Wood Pigeon and the like, but it amazed me what we had drifting over, birds that would usually be missed by us simply being too busy to take a moment to look up.

"After sixteen years of living in this house, I’d seen one Red Kite, but sighted one three times between March 29th and May 12th, with others in the Wythall area reporting sightings too."

"Young male Red Kites will prospect for their own territory during the Spring, exploring areas beyond the range of already resident birds. 

"This behaviour is shared among other bird of prey species, which could explain my incredible sighting from the office window on May 3rd, when the unmistakable profile and 5ft wingspan of an Osprey drifted by, dwarfing the two Buzzards which were mobbing it. 

"One had been seen prior to and afterwards at Earlswood Lakes and being a fish eater, my sighting was possibly the same bird on its way there for another feed."

But Ashley didn't just stick to his own garden. 

"Noticing other friends on facebook were keeping similar notes and groups like ‘Self Isolating Birders’ were popping up, I wondered if anyone would like to join me in a ‘Worldwide Lockdown Garden Birdwatch’ and set a date of May 9th

I contacted my various friends and guides around the world, which resulted in 150 participating gardens, covering some 23 countries, who between us all managed to record 577 species of birds. 

I set up a Just Giving page on the back of my promotions of the day and raised a just over £2000 for the RSPB, so well worth all the effort coordinating the day.

Continuing my observations, the most recent new bird for the garden was on June 30th, when I was very surprised to see a young Whitethroat at the bottom of our small garden. 

A migrant bird which will be heading to Africa in a month or so from now."

"This latest sighting brings the total number I’ve observed from the garden since April 1st to a quite incredible 62 species, not bad for a suburban garden."

With lockdown easing Ashley wanted to get out in nature that went beyond his garden.

"We are now beginning to see some light at the end of the tunnel, but small steps and for me, I’ve begun leading some bird walks locally, which have proved very popular. 

"With more people having the time recently to watch their garden birds, it has reignited or started a new interest they perhaps want to develop further, so I’m happy to help.

"My walks, often around Earlswood Lakes, offer advice on how to tell the different birds apart, not only by sight and call, but also by considering behaviour, habitat and time of year."

Yesterday morning Leigh went on a birdwatching walk with Ashley and really enjoy it. A review of the experience, including a list of all the birds Leigh and Ashley spotted will be coming soon. 

Ashleys contact details are below if you’d like to find out more about what he has on offer locally and its worth following him on facebook, as he regularly post pictures of his garden sightings and beyond.


>All photographs used belong to Ashley Grove