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BIRDS IN MY GARDEN

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MY GARDEN

We moved to our present house in Bridge Road, near the centre of Emsworth in May 1997 after spending about 30 years in an old Edwardian house on the outskirts of Emsworth. The present garden is considerably smaller than my previous one and has fewer species of bird visiting it. However, we are lucky in having a fairly open aspect despite being close to the centre of town. I can see the whole garden from the house and watch at various times during the day. At the end of the garden at the other side of the brick wall is a small stream (Westbrook Stream), which runs down to Emsworth Millpond. The stream occasionally attracts unusual visitors, like Little Egret, Kingfisher and Grey Wagtail.

Feeding birds
I put food out daily for the birds throughout the year. The tree on the right is a flowering cherry from which I hang seedholders with sunflower hearts. I have given up using peanuts in hangers as the birds ignore them and the peanuts go mouldy. I have also stopped using niger seed holders as the seeds constantly fell onto the gound where they created a soggy mess. Also, the birds far prefer sunflower hearts. I try fat balls but they too often get ignored and go mouldy (like the one hanging from the tree in the photo). I do put apples out, but they are rarely touched except in very cold weather. I put a mixture of mixed seed and chopped peanuts on the bird table and scatter some on the ground. There are two bird baths, a small one at the back of the garden and a large pedestal type out of sight on the left.

Cat problem
Unlike in my previous garden, squirrels are not a problem. But cats are a big problem. One of my neighbours has three cats and there are others in the area which have a regular route through the garden, often along the back wall. I have tried various means to stop them coming into the garden with no great success. I invested in a Catwatch which the RSPB said would scare off cats but it did not work. I have also put up a number of barriers of bramble and other tough matter at cat access points, but I am fighting a losing battle.

Bird recording
I have taken part in both BTO garden bird record schemes: Garden Birdwatch (GBW) scheme since its inception in 1995 and Garden Bird Feeding Survey (GBFS) from 1992-97. Weekly records are kept of the maximum number of birds of each species seen at any one time in the back garden. Only birds that actually use the garden or hunt over the garden (e.g, Swifts) are counted. I have seen many others from the garden or flying over the garden which are not counted.

The list shows the each bird species seen in the garden up to 12 November 2012 - records completed for 792 weeks. The birds in the list are ranked according to the total number of weeks the species was recorded. The total number is 47.


GARDEN BIRD LIST . . . UP TO 12 NOV 2012

TO BE UPDATED

SPECIES

Rank

Weeks

Collared Dove

1

764

Backbird

2

696

House Sparrow

3

693

Greenfinch

4

680

Chaffinch

5

632

Blue Tit

6

611

Starling

7

596

Robin

8

507

Woodpigeon

9

460

Goldfinch

10

442

Dunnock

11

425

Great Tit

12

300

Swift

13

199

Magpie

14

180

Song Thrush

15

161

Wren

16

155

Little Egret

17

68

Blackcap

18

54

Long-tailed Tit

19

44

Coal Tit

20

31

Carrion Crow

21

29

Sparrowhawk

21

29

Chiffchaff

23

24

Goldcrest

24

19

Grey Wagtail

25

8

Pied Wagtail

26

7

Siskin

27

6

Willow Warbler

27

6

Black-headed Gull

29

5

Brambling

29

5

Jackdaw

29

5

Kingfisher

29

5

Great Spotted Woodpecker

33

4

Redwing

33

4

Yellowhammer

33

4

Bullfinch

36

3

Feral Pigeon

37

2

Fieldfare

37

2

Mallard

37

2

Pheasant

37

2

Stock Dove

37

2

Turtle Dove

37

2

White Dove

37

2

Cuckoo

44

1

Jay

44

1

Mistle Thrush

44

1

Redstart

44

1


ANNUAL CHANGES IN MY GARDEN BIRDS

The above list conceals a good deal of change in the fortunes of the garden birds over the 15 years with some going up the list while others have declined. The big winners have been Goldfinch and Woodpigeon and the main losers were House Sparrow, Starling and Greenfinch.


GOLDFINCH
Goldfinches have increased dramatically over the years in all gardens, including mine. The big increase came in 2004 when I started using niger seeds, though they now feed exclusively on sunflower hearts from the feeders. From being fairly rare birds in the garden Goldfinches are now my number one bird both in reliability and numbers. The chart gives the mean weekly count of Goldfinches in the garden over each year. There was an unusual fall in 2014.

 


WOODPIGEON
Woodpigeons have steadily increased in my garden over the past 15 years, as they have generally in gardens across the country. The big increase in my garden was between 1998 and 2008 as shown in the following chart , which plots the mean weekly count of Woodpigeons each year. There has been a levelling out after that peak, but they are still a very regular bird in the garden virtually every day.

  


HOUSE SPARROWS
One of the main losers in garden birds has been the House Sparrow. Numbers have been declining fairly steadily in the garden for the past 10 years, much in line with the general decline as recorded in BTO surveys. The mean weekly count in 1998 was 15.4 from where it fell to 6.7 in 2002. There was a recovery to 10.4 in 2005, but then numbers plumetted down to 0.9 in 2012.
However, there are signs of a recovery. In 2013 and 2014 House Sparrows were more frequent in the garden and the mean weekly counts showed a modest increase as shown in the chart.

 

BTO Garden Birdwatch scheme also reported a slight recovery in House Sparrow numbers following a big drop that occurred in the middle of last decade. Since 2008 a noticeable, steady upturn in GBW counts has been recorded.


STARLINGS
Starling numbers in the garden have also slumped over the years. As shown in the following chart, numbers were very healthy in the early 2000s and they were regularly seen in the garden, sometimes swooping down in huge numbers to take food. But since 2003 numbers have taken a tumble and they are now one of the least seen of the once regular birds. However, like House Sparrow, there appears to have been a slight revival over the past two years as shown in the following chart.

 


GREENFINCH
Greenfinch used to be my top garden bird with a 100% record, and cost me a load of money in sunflower hearts until 2006. However, from 2007 their numbers plumetted. The BTO reported a large decline in the Greenfinch breeding population following the outbreak of trichomonosis in 2006 - from 4.3 million to 2.8 million birds. My garden finches have suffered also from this disease. Sadly, there is no real sign of a permanent recovery.

 


COLLARED DOVE
Collared Dove numbers rapidly increased in the garden from the start of counting in 1997 to a peak in 2008. Since then there has been a sharp slump in numbers.


CHAFFINCH
Like Collared Dove, Chaffinch numbers have had a slump since 2008. Not sure of the reason, though it is probably associated with the disease trichomonosis which mainly affected the finches.