Tag Archives: Ornithology

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.

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Bird nerd part one: a confession

I have a confession to make. I am the garden bird equivalent of a trainspotter. For the last three years I have not only been watching birds in my garden, but recording details of the numbers of individuals of each species I see.

Each day that I work from home I keep an eye (and ear) out for birds in the garden, and record the maximum number of individuals seen at the same time from each species. Over the last 3 years I have clocked up 153 days worth of observations, and lots of completed forms.

Bird observation forms
Some of the completed forms…

While I appreciate that this makes me seem slightly obsessive and sad, it also means I have lots of lovely data to play with. This allows me to monitor trends over time, and see how changes in the garden, weather and seasons affect my feathered visitors.

This behaviour came as a surprise to me. I’ve always considered myself more of a mammal person than a bird fan. I saw birds as nice, but a bit dull (unless they were spectacular kingfishers or powerful birds of prey).

Then we moved house and got a garden. I don’t know when I changed my mind, but soon after moving we installed the bird feeding station, and waited for our first feathered visitors. And waited. And waited.

We had to wait almost a month before we saw the first bird in our garden. Our first visitors were a pair of collared doves. Then more and more types of birds started visiting. Something clicked, and I realised that the garden birds were wild creatures I could watch from the comfort of my own home. And they had their own characteristics. And I could watch real life mini dramas being played out in front of me.

I’m still not sure where the urge to obsessively keep records comes from. I think it must be from working with statisticians for too long. And the transformation is not complete – real twitchers wouldn’t consider me as one of their own. I don’t travel the country in the hope of seeing a rare small brown bird. I’d still choose a glimpse of otter or badger over the rarest of feathered migrants any day.

But I do enjoy watching the birds in the garden. Observing a species we’ve never seen in the garden before makes my day.

Having got that confession out of the way, I’ll try and share some of my observations with you in future posts…