Counting Garden Birds

This blog is a special treat for all lovers of a bit of data crunching and a nice graph as I’ve done an analysis of the weekly garden bird records that I’ve been keeping.

Making records, simply writing something down in a systematic way, can seem a little laborious but it is a really important act. When these records are kept over a long period of time, which is of course the time-frame of nature, they show clear changes and trends. In a wider context it is this process of record keeping which is explaining the problems of climate change and bio-diversity loss. The phrase ‘Since records began’ is often used.

As my project is all about increasing nature in the garden I understood quickly that I had to start making more detailed records.

One of the first that I started in January was a simple weekly log of the presence of birds. I’ve done my best to be patient but as we are now 43 weeks into the year I decided to have a first look at the results.

My method for this record was to mark a bird as present if I saw it in the garden at any point during the week. To be marked present I only had to see a bird species once, but it did need to be in my garden. Visiting my neighbours tree, for example, doesn’t count. And I did need to see it, only hearing it also doesn’t count.

First thing to note is that of the 43 weeks in the year I’ve only got records for 31 weeks. This is despite a lockdown when I spent much more time at home, here I must try harder. However it is enough to give some results.

The graph above shows all of the birds recorded at least once in the garden this year. A total of 26 different species.

Of these, 4 birds have been recorded as present every week, the Great Tit, Collared dove, Parakeet and Robin. In truth they are probably present in my garden not just every week but every day.

Of these the parakeet is the most interesting and the least expected. When I was young these birds were very rare but now in suburban environments, and I know that this is the same in the suburbs of London, there are very large flocks. They are a direct beneficiary of the generally warmer climate that we now have.

After these there is another group which are not recorded at 100% but which are basically resident in the garden year round. Magpie, Chaffinch,  Dunnock, Rock Dove, Blue Tit and Wood Pigeon. I will be honest and say that sometimes I’m not 100% sure if I have seen a Rock Dove or a Feral Pigeon. It’s probably safer to label this bird ‘Rock Dove/Feral Pigeon’.

Then starting from around 75% we are into a group which can be classed as occassional visitors. Jay, Starling, Crow, Blackbird, Marsh Tit, Coal Tit, Wren, Crested Tit and Blackcap. For these I Iooked at the time of year when they were present.

The overall picture is that they are more present in the winter than in the summer.

A clear illustration is the Starling which was an ever present until the end of June before disappearing. This shows a very typical trend that with good weather and abundant natural food the occassional visitors spend the majority of the summer in environments further away from humans. The months of July, August and September are quiet in the garden and during this time bird activity is reliant on the permanent residents. It will be interesting to see when these occassional visitors start to reappear regularly in the garden.

The very last category of birds have only been spotted in the garden very occassionally, sometimes only once, Song Thrush, Tree Creeper, Long Tail Tit, Firecrest, Goldcrest, Greenfinch and Spotted Woodpecker. With so few sightings there are is real basis for further analysis. The significant point of interest will be to see if any of them are more frequently spotted in the future.

So these are the initial results, however it is a ridiculously short time-frame and I would not want to make any conclusions. The results are massively influenced by the weather conditions which have been very mild in 2020. I don’t think we had any winter snow in the Paris region and this was followed by a warm, dry spring and a hot, dry summer. We need to see the results over a longer time period and through a variety of weather conditions.

The record keeping will therefore go on and I’ll try and share another analysis after the winter and before the spring nesting season.

Do keep visiting the website to which I keep adding videos, photos and general updates on the garden activity. I’ve also just added a little section on Wood Mice which is now available.

Thanks for reading.

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