I went for a quick win for my January #WildGarden2016 task – installing two new bird feeders that I was given for Christmas. The feeders are in the shape of poppies, with the flowerhead holding the bird food. I’ve put mealworms in one and seeds in the other.
As the feeders are only a couple of feet high, I had to be careful to position then away from any cover that a cat could use to creep up on a feeding bird.
They’re on quite slender ‘stems’, so I wasn’t sure they’d stay upright in all the high winds we’ve been having, but they seem to be coping with that without problems. I guess the next test is whether they can cope with a fat woodpigeon or two landing on them!
I expect that they’ll attract a different sort of bird to those that use the hanging feeders. I set them up just over a week ago, and today I saw my first bird using it – a robin. I’m not surprised a robin was the first customer – they’re naturally quite bold birds, love mealworms, and don’t use the hanging feeders.
It’s always encouraging to see wildlife making use of new ‘wildlife-friendly’ features in the garden. I’m looking forward to getting cracking on some of the more ambitious plans I have!
As I mentioned in my last bird nerd post, I have quite a lot of data on the birds that visit my garden, and am keen to hear ideas for questions I could look at with it. Someone suggested that it might be worth looking at whether birds with similar feeding habits have similar patterns of visits over the year. So I gave it a go.
First I tried to work out how I could group my avian visitors, and settled on the following categories:
those that feed from the seed feeder (house sparrows, great tits, chaffinches)
those that feed from the suet pellet feeder (blue tits, coal tits, black caps, long-tailed tits)
those that eat seed from the table (wood pigeons, collared doves, feral pigeons)
those that eat suet pellets or mealworms from the table (starlings, magpies, jackdaws, crows)
those that feed from the ground / other sources (blackbirds, song thrushes, pied wagtails, wren, dunnock, robin)
Of course there is a certain amount of overlap. For example, sparrows and bluetits will feed from both the seed feeder and suet pellet feeder, but do seem to have preferences.
I then created some simple line charts, using the average number of each species seen per observation day for each month of the year, based on data from June 2012 – May 2013. Here are the charts.
For most of them it looks like the average number seen per observation day is independent of feeding habits. But there may be some relationship for those that feed from the ground or suet pellets or mealworms from the table.
The patterns are unlikely to be driven by changes in the availability of food in my garden, as this is broadly steady throughout the year. However it could be linked to the availability of other food sources beyond my garden. It may be that birds in this category are more influenced by the weather than the other categories, so fluctuations are more in line with each other.
It’s not conclusive evidence, but it’s an interesting hypothesis. When I have time I will use data from the whole 3 years to draw up scatter plots for pairs of birds whose average numbers seem correlated. Can you think of other ways I should test for a relationship? Are there any other questions you think I should look at?
To start my blog, I thought maybe an introduction to my wildlife garden might be in order. We (Dr C, Fat Cat and I) live in a small town, and have a small garden (about 7.5m by 7.5m). Since we moved in (back in 2009) we’ve been gradually trying to turn it into a haven for bugs, birds and other beasts, and have had more success than I anticipated.
When we moved in, the garden had a couple of decked areas, a lawn, a couple of borders and a small box hedge. A rampant buddleia has been an attraction for butterflies, bees and birds. Since then we’ve added a bird feeding station, a barrel pond, a small area of meadow, a hedgehog house, birdboxes, some small trees in pots, a wood pile, a raised vegetable bed, an insect log, a bird bath, and probably some more things I’ve forgotten.
Since then we’ve seen 25 species of bird in the garden, along with hedgehogs, a fox, mice, a slow worm, frogs, various pond life and numerous insect species. It’s been really satisfying seeing how quickly wildlife starts to make use of the things we’ve provided. Watching the garden has been a real source of pleasure to me, and I’ve learnt a lot along the way.
This is my diary of the wildlife where I live in Oxfordshire, and sometimes the places I visit. I am a 16 year old young naturalist with a passion for British wildlife, especially Badgers and Hares. I have been blogging since May 2013 and you can read my old blog posts at www.appletonwildlifediary.blogspot.co.uk