Tag Archives: birdwatching

Bird nerd part 10: feral pigeons

Feral pigeons are regarded as pests in many towns. Lots of effort and expense goes into discouraging them from perching on ledges by placing spikes, and scaring them away with birds of prey. But in my garden feral pigeons have been rare. In 2013-14 I recorded none at all, and the year before that I only recorded them on 3 occasions. Now I’m seeing them all the time.

So far this year I’ve recorded data from 13 observation days. I’ve seen feral pigeons on 9 of those 13 days. And it’s not just one or two. In the four preceding years, the most I’ve seen on any single day was two. This year I’ve had up to six on a single day. I’ve seen feral pigeons on as many observation days in 2015 (and we’re still only in May) as in the previous 4.5 years put together.

I’m not sure why there’s been this change. I’m still getting regular visits from their country cousins, the woodpigeons. The type of food I’m putting out is the same. And there hasn’t been any significant changes in land use nearby.

Feral pigeon
Feral pigeon

While not everyone’s a fan of feral pigeons, I quite admire the beautiful colouring on their necks. And they look a bit brighter than woodpigeons (who always strike me as dopey). As far as I can see they’re not causing any problems in the garden, so they’re welcome visitors (as are the crows, jackdaws and magpies that other garden birdwatchers are often less keen on).

 

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Bird nerd part 9: finding a home for my data

I’ve been keeping records of the birds that come into my garden since 2010. By now, that’s quite a lot of data. Once a year I get round to entering it into a spreadsheet, and trying to analyse it a bit. But apart from a few posts on my blog, and my own personal interest, the data are not really achieving much. Now I’ve finally found a use for the data, as part of the British Trust for Ornithology’s Garden BirdWatch survey.

I found out about Garden BirdWatch (which is different from the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch that takes place in January each year) at an event organised by the local BTO representative. Members of the BTO, and people like me, who have taken part in previous surveys (Nestbox Challenge, in my case) were invited to hear about the different surveys the BTO run, and a fascinating talk by Ed Drewitt on Urban Peregrines. I’m not a proper ornithologist (mammals are more my thing), so I felt a bit like an imposter at the event, but the Garden BirdWatch does sound like it’s designed to take the sort of data I collect each week.

Garden BirdWatch summary data
Garden BirdWatch summary data

So, I signed up, and have now entered my data back to July last year. I haven’t worked out how to enter my earlier data yet, but I hope this can also be uploaded somehow. Once the data is on the website you can look at summaries of it, although I’m not sure if they go into the level of detail I try to when I analyse my data. But at least it’s now helping researchers to monitor the health of our bird populations.

 

Bird nerd part 8: Big Garden Birdwatch 2015

The last weekend in January was the annual Big Garden Birdwatch, when hundreds of thousands of people from across the UK record the numbers of birds they see in one hour. This year I was down in Cornwall that weekend, staying with my parents, so there were four pairs of eyes to keep watch.

The list of what we saw is a little different from what I’d expect if we were at home (see my report on last year’s birdwatch). Here’s what we saw down in Cornwall:

Great British Birdwatch results from my parents' garden
Great British Birdwatch results from my parents’ garden
  • 4 Blackbirds (we usually get a couple)
  • 2 Bluetits
  • 4 Chaffinches (we rarely get chaffinches)
  • 2 Dunnock
  • 2 Great tits
  • 3 House sparrows (we’d beat them on sparrows)
  • 2 Magpies
  • 3 Robins (we usually only get 1)
  • 30 Starlings (We rarely see more than 10 at home)
  • 1 Woodpigeon (we’d beath them on woodies as well – we usually get 2 or 3)
  • 1 Wren
  • 1 Greater spotted woodpecker (We’ve never seen a woodpecker in our garden)
  • 25 Rooks (there’s a rookery in the trees by their house)

No collared doves though – we usually get 2 or 3.

Chaffinch
Chaffinch
Blue tit
Blue tit
Great tit
Great tit
This chaffinch is too fast for me!
This chaffinch is too fast for me!

Later this year they’ll release the full results, which will give a useful snapshot of how the nation’s birds are doing.

 

Big Garden Birdwatch 2014

It’s the last weekend in January, which means it’s time once again for the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch. I’m doing my hour of observation as I type, (lunchtime on Sunday) and conditions aren’t promising. It’s tipping down with rain, and blustery with it, so I don’t expect to see many birds. I put out food first thing this morning, but had to refresh supplies before I started counting as most of it had already gone.

Last year more than half a million people took part across the UK. The data generated by this annual event helps us keep track of how garden birds are doing across the UK. Headline findings from last year’s event included the continuing decline of starlings and house sparrows, both of which are ‘red listed’, which means they are of highest conservation concern. We have to hope that this year will see better results for them. On a more positive note, sightings of siskins, fieldfares and jays increased last year compared to 2012.

So, what I have seen in my garden over the last, blustery hour? No big surprises.

  • 5 house sparrows
  • 2 starlings
  • 1 dunnock
  • 2 blackbirds
  • 2 collared doves
  • 2 woodpigeons

I think if the weather had been kinder I would have expected to see a robin and a bluetit or two, based on my ‘bird nerd’ sightings over the last couple of weeks. But who can blame the birds for finding somewhere sheltered to keep out of the rain. Now I’ve finished my hour I think it’s time to light the fire and settle in for the afternoon!