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BIG Garden Birdwatch (well, more of a listen really).

Bird box near River View Pateley

"There are loads of blackbirds!" cried the five year old when we stepped out into the BIG Garden Birdwatch at River View Pateley this weekend. Pointless to explain these were the silhouettes of doves rooks and gulls against the winter afternoon light, just as it was pointless to explain to an eight year old that the mess of twigs the river had caught was not a nest.

We looked in vain on the crib sheet for a water bird with black and white plumage that we caught in the middle of the river. We think now it was a Dipper, but it wasn't on the garden list. The Kingfisher a neighbour had spotted days before, and the hooting of our nightly owl were similarly unreported. The RSPB are tracking domestic birds with their annual data collection, so we headed back up the hill and into the wooded areas to see how many garden birds we could spot.

There was lots of song in the trees and little flickers of movement. The birds stubbornly refused to come closer for my old lady eyes and declined to keep still for the junior photographer. The bravest and most brazen were the rooks on the roof, who are taking over now the housemartins have disappeared on their winter break. We took a patchy report to send to the nation's bird body, but I suspect that they knew this would be the case with people like us. The aim, it seems, is to encourage us to take time to enjoy the presence of birds in our life. And that is just what we did.

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