It may be a new decade but some things will always remain the same including our participation in the world’s largest wildlife survey. Each January over half a million people across the country come together to take part in the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch, counting the birds that appear in their gardens during a single hour and in doing so helping track the fortunes of our commonest feathered friends. As examples of citizen science projects go it’s hard to think of any other that has so captivated the public and become such an integral part of our national psyche, or indeed that has run for quite so many years (forty plus and counting).
This year marked our tenth taking part at our current property and probably delivered the best results we’ve had since those early days. That has I’m sure something to do with the fact that for once we hadn’t chosen an hour beset by torrential rain and gale force winds, conditions that favour neither man nor beast. In the end we managed to record twelve species and forty one individuals but for me the real interest lies in drilling down into the detail.
|House Sparrow (8)|
Blue Tit (3)
Coal Tit (2)
Collared Dove (2)
Looking back at our first count in 2011 one thing that immediately jumps out is that our once common flock of Starlings is simply no more. I wish I could say that this was a local anomaly but sadly Starling numbers have been crashing nationally for some time leading to them being red listed as a bird of high conservation concern. The Greenfinchpopulation has similarly been decimated, largely thanks to the rampant spread of trichomonosis, but here at least we have good news. A pair have once more become regular visitors this winter and both showed up during our survey window. House Sparrow numbers have similarly bounced back from just two in 2017 to a mighty eight, as have Chaffinches which once appeared lost but are now heading back towards double figures. I hope these species’ resurgence has at least something to do with the work we’ve being putting into our garden including nest boxes, high quality food and plenty of natural cover. Certainly food has been one of the big draws for our Goldfinches whose numbers continue to build year on year, as does the cost of keeping them fed.
The only really glaring omission from this years count was that of Great Tit which, given the regularity with which we see them, struck us as a bit odd. Perhaps unsurprisingly one popped up just after our hour had finished and they’ve been here ever since.
The rules of the Big Garden Birdwatch state that you can only record birds actually grounded in your garden which meant we saw several species which couldn’t be submitted. Chief amongst these was a Redwing perched just beyond our boundary plus a pair of Red Kite overhead. Three Herring Gulls and a couple of Crows also passed through before, just as the final minutes ticked away, a flock of four Starlings swept across a nearby field. Perhaps then all is not lost for these charismatic birds and if conservation efforts can help them recover we might yet see them return to our feeders.