Friday, February 1

RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch 2019

We've taken part in the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch for some years now and I've kept records of our results since 2012. It's interesting to see how the bird population in our garden compares over previous years.

We chose an hour on Saturday morning just after our feeding stations had been replenished for our count. The birds usually seem to be lurking in bushes and trees waiting for their favourite food to make an appearance. The blackbirds in particular are at the ready and make their displeasure known if the food delivery is delayed. From various vantage points they will stare into our windows willing us to come out and serve them. They are particularly partial to suet pellets and queue up for a turn on the table as soon as the pellets hit it. Orderly queuing often gives way to out and out feathered warfare when someone loses patience and tries to barge in whilst someone else is feeding. The blackbirds didn't let us down this year and our normal numbers arrived on cue.
Click on image for a larger version
I'm sure over the course of the day we have more starling visitors but each morning two individuals land on the bird table together. They perch in exactly the same position side by side on the same corner of the bird  table.

We definitely had more house sparrows than we counted but even with, Martyn and I stationed a different windows we can't see the whole of the garden and the sparrows that we could see were flitting and flying around so much it was impossible to count them; nine was the number that we were sure of.
Click on chart for a larger version

Of course the goldfinches let us down again. Instead of the usual numbers all that we managed was four. To add insult to injury on Tuesday morning - the day after the count period - there were six already browsing as we drew back the curtains.

The RSPB website generates a semi doughnut chart to show the top ten birds  that you counted. The great tit which shared equal numbers to the blue tit was dropped from the chart.
Click on chart for a larger version
It also produces a similar chart to show the top ten birds nationwide. Our top ten are very similar to those counted nationwide but the spread and positioning on the charts varies. Although we do see chaffinches in our garden none turned up during our count whereas collared doves made it into our top ten.
Results as of Friday 1 February - Click for a larger version

The dunnock didn't make it into the top ten nationwide. I often wonder how many dunnock are counted in with house sparrows - little brown job syndrome.
As I mentioned at the beginning of the post I have kept records of our counts since 2012 as it's interesting to compare results,
Click on chart for a larger version

The overall numbers counted this year are one of our lowest but had we been able more accurately to count our house sparrow population I am sure that number would have been higher
Click to view a larger chart
From the chart above it would appear that our house sparrow, starling and goldfinch populations fluctuate most from year to year. We probably haven't seen many starlings in our count this year but I would say the sparrow and goldfinches are about the same as always. Goldfinches are just very fickle and will dessert us for periods of time only to return in force some time later. I think the weather and availability of food elsewhere can play a part in the fluctuations. The time of day can affect the numbers seen too.

I do often wonder whether the constant stream of blackbirds that we see are the same individuals that keep returning (a day or two after our count at one point there were nine) or whether we actually have far more of them visiting than we think. Maybe we need to try and devise a mini survey and try and spot some differences. At least we can separate the male and females.

So that's it for this year. If you take part in the count, how was it for you?



19 comments:

  1. Amusing comments, Sue. I like that half a donut chart.

    It's interesting to me how different birds turn up at the feeder at different times of day. I just have waste free bird seed on the platform.

    Here's list of birds that turn up in my garden regularly in winter, miles and miles away from yours:
    white-crowned sparrow, Lincoln's sparrow, California towhee
    house finch (most common), lesser goldfinch (different species from yours, but just as fickle, if there is nyjer available, they come in swarms)
    mourning dove, bush tits,
    English or house sparrow (different species than yours, but very common)
    Cooper's hawk (do you not have hawks hanging around your feeders?)
    Parrots (Amazona sp) and parakeets (Brotogeris sp); countable because they nest here
    northern mockingbird, bulbul (both with nice songs)
    California scrub jay, American crow,
    Allen's hummingbird, Nuttall's woodpecker.
    often yellow-umped warblers

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    1. If you click on the our garden bird gallery picture on the sidebar, Jane, there are photos of all our bird visitors not just the ones that turned up for the count. We do occasionally have a sparrowhawk. Our goldfinches especially like sunflower hearts. I’m always fascinated how we have many similar names for birds but the actual birds look so different. Do you take part in your count? Yours is in February isn’t it?

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    2. The one that really gets me is the robin. Yours is so different from ours. No, I haven't participated in the backyard bird count. Used to do Christmas Bird Count, but I don't get around much anymore.

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    3. Funny thing. I checked out when the GBBC was and it is Feb 15-18 this year. But what surprised me was that it is integrated with eBird which I use already use irregularly. So I guess the answer is yes I do participate. But it is just a list, not nearly as pretty as yours!

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    4. I just like taking bird photos, Jane. I add photos on my blog in case some visitors especially, from overseas. are not familiar it’s the birds listed.

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  2. I've noticed that the birds (particularly finches) tend to mob our feeders all at once and then disappear, so I will own up that once I spotted an accumulation I started the count. We never got any goldfinches until we started the exclusive niger and sunflower seed feeders. This year I counted over 10 goldfinches (yes all at once). That is more than I have ever seen, although I haven't counted them until the birdwatch. On the same morning the garden got a visit from the sparrowhawk. It tends to turn up on wintry days but didn't get into the count as it didn't reappear in the allotted hour. I wasn't sure we would get any sparrows after that visit - but, perhaps reassured by the other small birds arrival, they reappeared.

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    1. We get the highest numb of goldfinches when they all bring their young ones to introduce them to sunflower hearts. As we as on the feeders, they peck around underneath eating any bits that fall. I’ve counted 16 just on the ground. Other than bird count days we often have one on each of the four perches on both feeders and some waiting in the tree. They also have periods when they do a disappearing act for a few weeks presumably when there is lots of wild food,

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  3. I too think it is interesting to keep track of birds in the garden. I think you should be able to count more than an hour per day. Some birds come in early and some come in late, here anyway. I don't chart the birds but I probably should. Then I would know if what I think is happening is truly happening.
    I think you take the best photos of your birds. I so enjoy seeing them. One of these days I hope to get to England to see all of these birds in person. I will be able to identify them from seeing your pictures.
    Your goldfinch is way different than ours. It is fun to see the differences in our birds that are named the same.
    House Sparrows are the most common birds here. They are from England too so it is the same as yours.
    Just this week when it was so cold there was a huge flock of Starling that swept through the garden gleaning anything edible. They looked like giant ants running through the flower beds. You know it is cold here when the Starlings from the surrounding fields come to town to find food. I wish I had a video of that happening. Maybe if it happens again this month I will try to get a video of it.
    Enjoy your weekend.

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    1. I think that they think it will encourage more people to take part if they limit the tome needed to one hour. The hour that you choose is up to you and you don't need to record it but as you say the hour chosen cam very much affect the birds that visit.

      We saw a starling murmuration a few days ago and there must have been literally millions of birds. Do you get that type of thing? Martyn filmed it and if you are interested it's posted here on our vlog It;s best viewed in YouTube at a large size and the highest resolution your computer can deal with.

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    2. We do get huge numbers of Starling during winter. It is amazing to see. I have watched your vlogs. I am sort of a lurker on your site. For some reason I don't get notifications about when you post so I pop over when you comment on my blog to see if you have posted again. I have also searched your sites and read/watched what I can find. I enjoy your gardens etc. I am not much of a veg gardener but wish I had the capacity to do so.

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    3. Our starling population is boosted over winter too. Lisa with birds coming over from colder parts of Europe.

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  4. You are very knowledgeable Sue on bird population on your place. We have many blue tits and sparrows here, sometimes bullfinch.

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    1. I love learning about the natural world, Nadezda.

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  5. Wow - now THAT'S some awesome analytics. Love it!

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  6. A wonderful report! Good to know you have so many house sparrows, we don't see them at all around here.xxx

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    1. Yes I am happy to see the house sparrows, Dina,

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  7. Your Robin's and goldfinches are sure pretty! My goldfinches turn brown for the winter. Of course that is when they visit my feeder!

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    1. The goldfinches visit the feeders all year round, Bonnie. The juveniles are less colourful but otherwise their colours don't change.

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