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
We had one visit from each of the following birds (having had none the year before):
- 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.
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).
This time last year the first brood of house sparrow chicks in our camera nest box were fledging. And the year before that, ill-fated bluetit chicks had just hatched. This year, for the first time since we put the box up, no birds have shown any inclination to nest in it.
I don’t know why. Our garden is still full of sparrows, emptying the feeders and chattering away. The box is well hidden by a rampant clematis, but it was last year as well. There’s no sign of nesting in our other bird boxes either. And I don’t think they are nesting in our gutter like they used to.
I miss watching them build the nest, brood the eggs, and wait expectantly for them to hatch. And I miss hearing the cheeps, and checking the camera footage to see the moment they fledge. (To cheer myself up, I’ve just rewatched the footage from last year).
Oh well, there’s always next year. And I should get to see plenty of bluetit chicks on my next dormouse box check.
Do you have any idea of why the sparrows aren’t nesting in the box this year?
Right now the weather’s a bit miserable, but there are definite signs of spring outside. In the garden there are a few little irises in flower, their rich, stained glass blue a shot of colour amongst the browns of late winter. Our bluebells and daffodils have made an appearance, but aren’t yet in flower. And, as I walk to the station each morning, it’s light, and birds are singing.
So, it’s time for me to emerge from hibernation, and start getting ready for spring. Dr C and I spent yesterday in the garden, making preparations. Pruning. Tying in honeysuckle. Feeding and mulching the fruit trees. Planting seeds to germinate indoors, and lily of the valley to provide scent in April.
We’re not the only ones getting ready for spring. The birds seem to be checking out potential nesting places. Yesterday was the end of National Nestbox Week. We did our bit by getting our nest boxes ready: clearing out old nesting material from last year, and putting the camera back in, ready for whoever occupies it this year.
Last year our camera nest box saw a pair of house sparrows successfully rear two broods of chicks. The year before bluetits had tried (unsuccessfully) to raise youngsters in it. I read somewhere that house sparrows tend to return to the same nest site each year, so I’m hopeful that we’ll get to witness some activity. I will keep you posted!
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:
- 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.
Later this year they’ll release the full results, which will give a useful snapshot of how the nation’s birds are doing.
Every September my thoughts return to the Isles of Scilly, where Dr C and I spent our honeymoon (and several happy holidays since). Through my work I’ve travelled a lot of the world, but I still think the Scillies are the most beautiful place I’ve been. They’re also havens for seabirds and other marine wildlife. Here are a few of my favourite photos from the Scillies.
A couple of weeks ago I reported that another brood of house sparrow chicks had hatched in our camera nest box. But we didn’t know how many as nesting material was blocking the camera’s view into the nest. Since then we’ve been listening carefully to try and work out how they were getting on.
We knew at least two chicks had hatched, but as the days went by we got concerned. One chick was cheeping noisily, but there was only occasionally another, fainter cheep at the same time. We feared the worst.
A couple of days ago the nest was finally trampled down enough to get a partial view inside. To our surprise, we saw one, then two, then three, then, finally, four chicks.
After a couple of days of wing stretching and looking rather crowded, .
The parents haven’t been so quick to start sprucing up the nest for the next brood as they were last time, but we’ll keep an eye on it just in case.
Very exciting news – we have some new arrivals! While Dr C and I were away last week the house sparrow chicks hatched.
I’m not entirely sure how many chicks there are. The nest has an overhanging bit which means the camera can’t see all the way in. We’ve seen two chicks.
I’m also not sure how old the chicks are. I had set the laptop up to monitor the nest in our absence, but despite my best efforts it seems to have shut itself down within hours of my departure.
The mother sparrow seems to be spending quite a lot of time keeping the chicks warm. According to the RSPB, sparrows brood their chicks for 6-8 days. The chicks fledge after 14-16 days, so that could be anytime next week. It will be interesting to follow their progress.
Last week the RSPB released the results of the 2014 Great British bird watch. Once again house sparrows topped the list, with an average of 3.8 seen per garden.
Today is World Sparrow Day. Who even knew there was such a day? To mark this important occasion, I thought I’d give you an update on how our sparrows are getting on.