Tag Archives: British Trust for Ornithology

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.

 

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Nest Box Challenge

Last week was National Nest Box Week. This annual event aims to encourage people to put up nest boxes for birds, and comes in mid-February, as birds in the UK start to think about where to nest. Nest boxes are important in towns as, while there may be plenty of food for birds, there are few natural tree holes for them to nest in. Now, there’s not much room in my garden for more nest boxes (we already have 6). Not wanting to miss out, I decided to mark the week (and the hints of spring we’ve had in the last week) by installing the camera into the nest box at the front of our house.

This is fourth year that we’ve had a bird’s eye view of what goes on inside that nestbox. So far we’ve not had great luck. The first year a pair of bluetits started to build a nest, but didn’t complete it. The year after, 11 eggs hatched, but with only one parent feeding the chicks, none of them made it to fledging (it was also a very wet spring that year). Last year another pair of bluetits started building a nest, but didn’t complete it. It would be nice this year if we could see some chicks make it as far as fledging, particularly since I think the weather over the last few years has not been kind to our local bluetits.

Watching from my study on Friday there was a pair of bluetits spending quite a bit of time in our back garden, so hopefully they’ll decide the nest box at the front is their ideal home.

Early last year we also installed a terrace of sparrow boxes, and a robin box. These weren’t used, but who knows, maybe this year they’ll be occupied.

As another way of marking National Nest Box Week I’ve signed up to the British Trust for Ornithology’s Nest Box Challenge. This involves monitoring the nest boxes in my garden, and sending data back to the Trust. So I’ll be keeping a close eye on what’s going on in our nest boxes. I’ll let you know if there’s any news!

House sparrow explosion

House sparrows have been fairly regular visitors to our garden. We see them all year round, with an average number of 3 per observation day. But in the last few weeks the sparrow population in our garden seems to have exploded. Before September this year, the most we’ve seen at one time was 9. Now there are more than I can count (they keep moving!).

They’ve been hanging around our garden quite a bit, and getting through the bird seed faster than I’ve ever seen before. I’ve no idea why we have had the sudden increase. In previous years there hasn’t been a large increase in numbers around this time of year.  Perhaps they’ve had a particularly good breeding year?

They’re not the most spectacular of birds, but it’s great to see so many of them, as their numbers have plummeted in recent years. In the 1970s there were around 12 million pairs in the UK. Now there are between 6-7 million pairs. The good news is, data from the British Trust for Ornithology suggests that the decline has stabilised. Now we just need to work out how to help them recover.

Earlier this year we installed a sparrow terrace (to try and tempt them away from our gutters as a nest site). The boxes weren’t used this year, but hopefully some of our new visitors will decide they’re a good nest spot for next year. I’ll let you know!

Have you noticed anything similar in your garden?