Male house sparrow on seed feeder

Bird Nerd Part 11: headlines from the last year

Another year has passed, so I have another stack of data about my garden birds to wade through. I started recording data about the number of birds I see back in June 2010, so I’ve now got 5 years of data. In this post I’ll just share some of the headlines for the last year (June 2014 – May 2015).


This post outlines how I collect the data. In brief, I record the maximum number of individuals of a bird species I see at the same time in my garden, while sitting in my study working from home for the day.  This year I have 23 days of observations, which is the lowest so far – I think I must have had more meetings at work. Darn this paid employment thing getting in the way of birdwatching! (I love my job really.)

Averages, minimums and maximums

On average, I saw 18 individual birds of 7 different species per observation day. This did vary quite a bit over the year – the lowest was 2 birds of 2 species (in September) and the highest was 39 individual birds (in October) and 12 species (in December). The total number of species I saw over the year was 17.

The species league table

Average numbers of birds seen per observation day, and proportion of observation days seen on
Average numbers of birds seen per observation day, and proportion of observation days seen on

Notable visitors…

We had one visit from each of the following birds (having had none the year before):

Male blackcap
Male blackcap
  • Chaffinch
  • Blackcap
  • Pied wagtail
  • Song thrush

…and noticeable absences


This year we had no visits from wrens, goldfinches or siskins on observation days. This is the first year with no wrens or goldfinches recorded.

Coming soon

I’ve got another post or two planned looking at changes over the last five years, and also seasonal patterns in my garden visitors. (I even have hopes of presenting some of data in a more visual way than usual).


12 thoughts on “Bird Nerd Part 11: headlines from the last year”

  1. Thank you for posting. Given you have fewer observation days, is it surprising that some of the rarer birds have not been seen this year? What is perhaps more surprising is the number of new birds not seen in previous years with their higher levels of observation.

    1. Yes, I think the smaller sample size is probably the reason for not seeing some birds. Although when I finish looking at the five year comparison it will give an idea of whether this is part of a trend or a blip. I don’t think that there were any completely new visitors – just a few that I didn’t see last year (with more observation days).

    1. Thanks for the suggestion – BirdTrack looks great, but I already submit my data to BTO via their Garden Birdwatch scheme. I’m not sure there’s any value (for the BTO) in me submitting my data to them twice, and my regional rep said the Garden Birdwatch scheme was the best place for my data. It’s be great if they rolled out the BirdTrack tools to the Garden Birdwatch survey!

  2. No matter how tiny your few records might appear in the overall scheme, each observation is invaluable to people like the BTO. How about inputting them online under their BirdTrack project. It automatically calculates those figures quoted above without you having to do it manually. You never know, it might also have an overall impact on each specie’s conservation. Before anybody guesses, no, I don’t work for the British Trust for Ornithology but I am a fellow member.

    Good stuff Annabelle.

    Best Wishes

    Tony Powell

    1. Thanks Tony – completely agree about the value of submitting records to national databases. I was very pleased when I discovered the BTO’s Garden Birdwatch scheme was a good fit for my data [ Finding a home for my data], but sadly that doesn’t give the same automatic graphs and calculations as BirdTrack does 😦 – apparently they don’t have the funding for Garden Birdwatch to develop all the lovely tools BirdTrack has. I’m not sure what the position is on submitting it to both Garden Birdwatch and BirdTrack, but I’m not keen on adding another thing to my list of things to do – I’m still working my way through putting the older data onto their paper forms for Garden Birdwatch, to be scanned in (the electronic data entry only lets you enter data from the last couple of years)! It would be great if they could extend the BirdTrack tools to Garden Birdwatch.

      1. Re: BirdTrack you can do both, I’m on the other side of things while I only do BirdTrack but don’t do Garden BirdWatch as I don’t generally put times to my datasets. Both datasets (Garden BirdWatch and BirdTrack) inform all sorts of scientific research projects within the BTO and are used in many differing aspects, as far as I have heard from them. Once you set up the site i.e. your garden all you have to do is type them up (takes roughly 30 seconds to a minute per date entry) and then the automated reports you get as a result are mind-blowing. Food for thought and whilst is now a global tool, the science stretches far beyond our garden. Well done to you in whatever you choose to do.



    1. That’s a shame – I enjoy watching what the sparrows get up to. Not to give too much away before my next Bird Nerd post, but the numbers of sparrows in my garden has really gone up over the last 5 years. They really seem to like next door’s beech hedge.

      1. That’s lovely! I’ve seen hedges increasingly removed between houses to make way for brick walls (can’t understand that, so unsightly) – would explain why the sparrows have gone away. I’m glad that’s not the case in your area.

      2. Yes, hedges are much more attractive than walls or fences. And the loss of hedges has a huge impact on wildlife. If I ruled the world… (there’s a scary thought!)

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