Thursday, January 26

Bird Watching

This weekend we will be taking part in the RSPB annual Big Garden Birdwatch.
As usual our watch will be carried out from a house window in far more comfort than the birds will be experiencing.

It's a really easy 'task' - all we need to do is log how many birds of each species we see at one time in a chosen hour during the period 28 - 30 January. More information is available on the RSPB site here from which you can also download a free information pack.

Over time we have enjoyed watching a wide range of bird species visiting our garden. Our sighted species list is here. During bird watch weekend, however even our regulars are noticeable in their absence. I often wonder whether this is as a result of more people feeding the birds so they can take part in the watch. It would be a shame if these people forget about the birds once the novelty wore off and stopped putting food out.

I also wonder how much the information is skewed by birds being misidentified. For instance a female blackbird can be mistaken for a thrush and to some people a small brown bird is always a sparrow.  I wrote an article on our website a while ago about how some species could easily be mistaken for others. It includes lots of photographs and is here if you are interested.

Last year our bird count results were disappointing - the lowest overall total during the time we have been recording the numbers since 2012. Our previous years' totals are posted here. I hope that this year the birds decide to stick around. Maybe it wouldn't hurt to remind them who tries to help them out when the going gets tough.

17 comments:

  1. Oh, fun! If your house sparrow is the same species as my house sparrow,then only those in the far right column are house sparrows.

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    1. There is one more, Jane.

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    2. Ah, top, far left, then, a very young bird.

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    3. That's right, Jane. A young female

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  2. We'll be doing it here too. Five blackbirds in the garden at once the other day. They love poking around under damp leaves for juicy things to eat. One pulled a worm up and had a bit of a tug-of-war as well. Of course they'll have vanished come the weekend. I asked the resident bird expert and he agrees, house sparrows in the right column only.

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    1. There are actually four photos of house sparrows CJ.

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  3. Anyone having a go at identifying the others?

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  4. I love doing the Big Garden Birdwatch. It's a perfect excuse to sit and stare. When the children were younger, we would all watch together. I too wonder about how exact the findings are. For the last two years, had I done the birdwatch 24 hours before it actually started, I would have spotted nearly twice as many.

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    1. Bizarre isn't it. Today I counted 7 blackbirds waiting for the bird table to be replenished, I wonder whether they will be around during the count.

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  5. The ones I easily confuse with sparrows are dunnocks, I need my specs on to see their markings properly. Hope you get lots of visitors at the weekend.

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    1. Other ways of differentiating between a dunnock and a sparrow is the beak shape, Jo. A dunnock has a slender beak and also has pink legs.

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  6. Good luck! I hope you get lots to record, varieties and numbers.
    I stopped doing this a few years back because, although my garden has quite a few birds, whichever hour I chose to record none appeared. It was as if they knew. Of course, when the count is not happening is when the goldcrest, long tailed tits, wrens, sparrow hawks and woodpecker show up!

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    1. The RSPB reckon even a nil return gives them worthwhile information, Deborah.

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  7. I may be stating the obvious but a lot depends on the weather. In my experience we have the greatest number feeding when it is wet. I think the RSPB should make it, number spotted during a 24 hour period, you don't have to sit there all day, most of us who are interested in the birds visiting our feeders keep a regular look out.

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    1. That's true, Brian, weather is significant as is the availability of wild food. For us it is busiest on frosty mornings when the bird bath has needed thawing out. I also agree with you that it would be more effective if at least that count covered daylight hours after all as it is people will look out at differing times. To be honest I don't see why they can't accept sighting throughout the given period even if the sighting are just snapshots. I'm guessing they make it an hour so that they don't put people off but as you say extending the period of time doesn't mean you have to sit by the window all day. You could choose to just record an hour's sightings.

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  8. I find birds disappear when I'm looking out for them. Early morning is the busiest time here. I've noticed a decline in our sparrows and starlings funnily enough, lots more dunnocks and wrens along with most finches.xxx

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    1. We have a couple of busy times, Dina but the blackbirds seem to be around all day.

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