Tag Archives: magpie

Cherry thief

Bird feeding station
Bird feeding station

I like magpies. They’re clever, good looking birds. I know lots of people who feed birds aren’t keen on them. But they’re always welcome to help themselves to the food I put out for birds in my garden.

Having said that,  yesterday one really pushed my goodwill. We have a tiny cherry tree, which is currently laden with almost ripe fruit. Ignoring the bird table laden with different food purchased at great expense, the magpie decided to go for the cherries.

Cherry munched by magpies
Cherry munched by magpies

I love cherries. The tree is still quite young, so we haven’t had many to eat in previous years. And it’s so small (it’s a minaret tree in a big pot) that there isn’t enough to share. The magpie stealing from our precious supply cut me to the quick.

Now, my garden is very definitely primarily a wildlife garden. I take a laissez-faire approach to pest control, hoping that the slow worms, frogs and hedgehogs that visit will keep the slugs and other plant munchers under control. It doesn’t really work, which is why I have given up on growing peas and beans, and my courgette plants have all disappeared. But I am not prepared to sit idly by and watch my cherries get gobbled.

My first attempt at putting off the magpies is hanging a cd from the tree (as I don’t have a big enough net). I put it up yesterday lunchtime, and haven’t seen a magpie since. But I have been out most of this morning, so I can’t say for sure whether it works. The trouble is that magpies are clever birds, so it probably won’t take them long to suss it out.

My attempt at stopping magpies stealing my cherries - hanging an old CD from the tree
My attempt at stopping magpies stealing my cherries – hanging an old CD from the tree

It only has to work for long enough for the cherries to finish ripening. Will there be any left by then?

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Bird nerd part 6: four years of garden bird data

I now have four years worth of data about the birds that visit my garden, so I thought now would be a good time to look at the latest stats, and how they compare to previous years.

In the year from June 2013 to May 2014 I was able to keep records on 38 days. On average I saw 15 individual birds of 7 species per day, although that varied a lot by month. November was the best month for bird watching, with an average of 29 individuals from 8 species per day,  while July was the quietest month, with only 10 birds of 4 species per day. The highest number of species seen per day was only 10, which is down from 13 last year.

Woodpigeon in the snow
Woodpigeon in the snow

The most regular visitors were house sparrows and woodpigeons, with at least one of each seen on every observation day. The most numerous visitors were house sparrows, with an average of 4.6 seen per day. They were followed by starlings, with an average of 2.8, woodpigeons (2.3) and blackbirds (1.4).

Young starlings
Young starlings

How does this compare to previous years?

Average total number and total types of birds seen per observation day, 2010-2014
Average total number and total types of birds seen per observation day, 2010-2014

Well, the overall average number of birds and number of species is pretty similar. But there have been some winners and losers in the last few years, as the bar graph shows.

Average number of individual birds seen per observation, 2010-2014, by species
Average number of individual birds seen per observation, 2010-2014, by species

Winners

Male house sparrow on seed feeder
Hungry house sparrow
  • male blackbird on lawn
    Male blackbird on lawn

    House sparrows (from an average of 1.7 to 4.6 per day)

  • Dunnocks – the average number seen per day in the last year is roughly double that of 2010-11
  • Woodpigeon numbers have also doubled since 2010-11
  • Blackbirds – increased from 0.9 last year to 1.4
  • Magpies – slight increase

Losers

  • Bluetit gathering nesting material
    Bluetit gathering bits of twine to use as nest material
    Robin in the snow
    Robin in the snow

    Bluetits – these used to be some of the most regular visitors to the garden, but are now seen much less frequently

  • Jackdaws
  • Robins – the average number of robins seen has halved in the last year.

If you’re interested in how these figures compare to national observations, read this post on the Big Garden Birdwatch results.