Today I’d like to tell you a couple of stories about crowds.

To set the scene for the first story, imagine you’re in the Castle Mall in Norwich on a busy Saturday before Christmas.
You’re wandering through and you pass a shop, empty of merchandise but there are people inside; two artists painting gorillas. You do a double-take then stop and read the sign, which tells you about the Go Go Gorillas! trail in aid of the Break and Born Free Foundation charities.

GoGoGorillas Norwich 2013 - thanks to Lee Blanchflower, COGmedia, Mik Richardson.

Before you walked past no one was paying any attention. Now, because you’re interested, other people are looking too. You wander in to have closer look and other people start to read the sign. Within a couple of minutes there are half a dozen of you, walking round the artist, taking pictures and chatting.

The other story takes place in my garden.

I’ve recently moved to a new house in the Golden Triangle in Norwich and there’s a small garden behind the house. I like to feed the birds anyway and with the Big Garden Birdwatch coming up on the 26 and 27 of January I wanted to attract some birds to the garden with some tasty treats. So last weekend I bought a new bird feeder and some high-energy bird food and on Sunday morning I put them out by the kitchen window. I’d had blackbirds in the garden before but I hadn’t seen anything else so I didn’t want to get my hopes up. I thought ‘if I get a robin in the garden by the end of the week I’ll be happy’. As last nights’ washing up needed doing, I spent half an hour gazing out of the window with soapy hands and... best half hour of the weekend! First the blackbirds turned up, then a little wren in search of insects, and then the floodgates opened! A dunnock, starlings, great tits, house sparrows and a robin, right outside the window!

What do these stories have in common? Well, crowd behaviour. The similarity between us and the wildlife in our gardens often surprises me. Whether it’s the way we gravitate toward things others are interested in or the way we’ll defend the things we care about (a blackbird defending their spot on the bird table vs. a pub local and their spot at the bar), we have more in common than we’re usually aware of.

I love the characters of the blackbirds in my garden and I’m looking forward to getting to know the new personalities as new visitors arrive.

If you’d like to see why I’m such a garden bird fan, why not get involved in the Big Garden Birdwatch? Register now at