Our birding group is casual, with a mix of knowledge and an appetite for sharing information and sightings. We meet once a month on the first Tuesday (except in August when the birds are too secretive and quiet and they moult) and take it in turns to lead walks. We have favourite venues but like to introduce new areas each year. We also have a night away, usually in the autumn and in 2021 we hope to go to the Dee Estuary for Raptor Watch at Parkgate and Burton Mere.

Each month, the person responsible for the outing will send out details a week in advance and you just need to let them know if you are joining us.

In 2020 and the early months of 2021, we have not been able to meet often but we have still managed to have some quizzes, competitions and swap birding lists. A highlight for me was the dawn chorus, which we did in May, on our own, in our gardens and parks and surrounding countryside.

The draft itinerary for 2021, which may change, is as follows. Leaders to be advised once physical birding meetings start again.

January – RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch
February – What is singing?
March – Which warblers have arrived?
April 6th Drakelow
May 4th Coombes Valley
June 1st Goyt Valley
July 6th Old Moor
August No birding
September 7th Blacktoft
October or November Dee Estuary.
December 7th Lunch and birding at the National Stone Centre – Jane

The venues may change depending on the weather and who is leading the walk.

The Birding group coordinator is Jane Burgess, who can be contacted by email, or by telephone on 07954 588053

Image courtesy of R Williams
Slavonian Grebe sighted at Attenborough Jan 2020 Image courtesy of J Burgess. Click here for more information on this rare sighting.

Birding Group does the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch
The joint Matlock and Bakewell U3A Birding Group has been active during the pandemic. Between lockdowns we had a chance to meet but for most of the time, we have been solitary but still doing birdy things. We have tried a variety of quizzes, gone out in the frigid dawn for the dawn chorus and last month we took part in the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch.
The idea is to watch your garden, or an area of parkland, for an hour. To avoid counting the same bird twice, you record the maximum number of each species you see at any one time. The birds are recorded on the RSPB website and they were also sent to me to consolidate into one list.
It requires concentration, a bit of knowledge, a good identification book or app and somewhere warm to sit. Or at least something warm to wear and drink! In previous years I have sat in the gardens of Country Offices with a flask, a foam mat and cold hands. Now I sit in my upstairs bedroom window, still with a coffee but with warm hands.
Birds know when it’s BGBW weekend. The weather knows when it’s BGBW weekend. Almost without exception everyone who emailed with their list had an even longer list of birds they normally see but which were absent that day or which were there three hours ago but not in the allotted hour.
That said, we recorded 28 species which, on a drizzly, cold weekend when the birds, like us, would rather stay in bed, was pretty good. And over half our members took part. That’s the best bit.

Jane Kayley-Burgess
Coordinator, Birding Group
Photographs by kind permission from Peter Smitham