The annual bird walk, which is held in May to estimate the number of species that breed in the Gardens, recorded 51 species this year. A lot of the recording is done by ear as it is often quite difficult to actually see the birds in the thick foliage. There was not a lot of song on the day of the walk, and several species which are seen quite regularly in the Gardens, such as coal tit (right) and nuthatch, were not recorded. Some of the resident birds breed quite early and if they already have young in the nest they are so busy looking for food that they hardly sing any more.
We also noted some non-breeding birds. For instance, a red kite (left) flew overhead, and along the river we saw a sandwich tern flying upstream and a whimbrel, almost invisible on the muddy bank. The following day a cuckoo was both seen and heard in the Gardens. These birds are parasitic on the nests of others, as is well known. They particularly like dunnocks and reed warblers, so it might have been attracted in by the large number of dunnocks that breed at Exbury.
A lot of birds are now feeding young and can be seen busily searching for insects on the lawns and in the bushes. Two species of warblers, chiffchaffs and blackcaps, breed in the gardens. Probably the largest nesting bird is the raven; they start very early in the year and their young have fledged by now, but you can still hear them now and then, honking as they fly over. their preferred nesting site is in the pine trees that border Lovers Lane.