Monday, 26 January 2009

The RSPB & Birdwatch Results

Before listing the results of my Big Garden Birdwatch taken at the weekend I’d like to take a moment to introduce the RSPB to visitors outside the UK. The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds is a registered charity. In 1904, only 15 years after being founded, it was granted its Royal Charter.

Okay, I should perhaps say that I’m not really a history buff. However, on looking through their website for info on what they are currently working on my attention was drawn instead to why the RSPB was formed. I am guessing many others in the UK may find this interesting too.



The first president of the RSPB was the 6th Duchess of Portland shown in the painting above in 1912 (image courtesy of Wikipedia). You might wonder why when you look closely at the plumes in her hat. However, she and many other people wearing plumes at that time were its strongest supporters.

On reading from the RSPB website: “In its earliest days the Society consisted entirely of women who were moved by the emotional appeal of the plight of young birds left to starve in the nest after their parents had been shot for their plumes.” After watching the plight of blue tit parents to feed their young in my camera nestbox I can completely understand the driving force behind this.

The society had simple rules: That Members shall discourage the wanton destruction of Birds, and interest themselves generally in their protection” and That Lady-Members shall refrain from wearing the feathers of any bird not killed for purposes of food, the ostrich only excepted.”

During the late Victorian era (1871-1901) the plumes of thousands of egrets, birds of paradise and other species were being used in women’s hats – fashionable at the time. Previous to this native birds used for their plumes resulted in The Sea Birds (1869) and The Wild Birds (1880) Protection Acts. However: “the trigger which led to the foundation of the Society for the Protection of Birds in 1889 was the continued wearing of ever more exotic plumes.”



Today: “The RSPB speaks out for birds and wildlife, tackling the problems that threaten our environment.” They rely upon memberships and donations to fund their work. I could list many stats but as there is so much info on their website I would suggest you might enjoy browsing it yourself. I’ll just settle for a couple of points that caught my eye tonight. The first is that the RSPB has at least nine volunteers for every paid member of staff. I'd say that is pretty impressive!

The second is the recycling of old mobile phones and inkjet cartridges. For every mobile phone and inkjet cartridge sent to The Recycling Appeal, the RSPB will receive a cash donation. This money will help us to carry out vital conservation work across the UK, such as creating habitats for wildlife."

The RSPB continues to say: “It’s really easy to join this scheme and help raise valuable funds for the RSPB. Just log on to the recycling appeal website and order your freepost envelopes. Once you have completed your contact details on the envelope, enclose your old inkjet cartridges and mobile phones and post to the RSPB recycling appeal.”


Okay… now to my Birdwatch results. Unexpected changes to plans meant that my count wasn’t at the time of day I would have liked. Never mind, I did do it and I will submit my results this week. My count was taken on Sunday between 9:30 and 10:30am. I didn’t have a particularly big show despite not seeing the female Sparrowhawk regularly hunting in the garden. There were ten species and a total of twenty-six birds. The photo montage below represents my count.



Blackbirds topped my count with seven. Three Chaffinches, Greenfinches and House Sparrows were seen. Two Great tits, Blue tits, Robins and Woodpigeons plus one Coal tit and one Dunnock bringing my count for 2009 complete. Despite this count being really quite low it is still of great value to the RSPB in their survey.

So that’s it for another year. The results are out in March and I will add a link here then. I will be particularly interested in numbers of Blue Tits this year after 2008 saw for the second year running a brood of eight chicks all die in our nestbox. Our boxes weren't the only ones to fail either from comments and emails. I don’t know how these parent birds will adjust to shortages of caterpillars and other insects when they need them to feed their young. It appears that the trigger to start the whole nesting process is not the days getting warmer but daylight levels increasing. During my count I did see a pair of Blue tits at our Arch nestbox and we have activity (including a rooster) in our Camera box now too. I’ll update on that shortly.

Finally, I have to say I have been completely overwhelmed by the response my last posting on Desert Island Plants has had! What a buzz around the garden blogs there was that day and a good time was had by all. I’d like to thank everyone who joined in and visited then and since. It really goes to show, just like everyone counting birds on The Big Garden Birdwatch, how our interests can connect us all. Just brilliant!

The photo of the Duchess of Portland was taken from Wikipedia see licensing details here. The montage photos were taken at various times of the year in my garden. The young blackbird was taken on May 19th 2007 in my garden.

22 comments:

Victoria said...

How funny, I reported exactly the same species, except for the sparrow. (I see them on the common, but not in my garden.) This year I have a pair of chaffinches, which is very exciting as I haven't seen chaffinches in inner London for years. And I have a whole flock of greenfinches, which suddenly seem very numerous in our neighbourhood. I've even seen evidence of a thrush (smashed snail shells on a paving stone), so that's good news too, even if it doesn't count towards Birdwatch!

Nature Nut said...

Your results are wonderful to read about. You could not be more right when expressing your concerns over the decline of insects populations for birds to eat or to feed their young. So many people work hard to remove the insects from their plants, not realizing the horrible, negative impact this has on the ecosystem in general!!

Liz said...

I find rose bushes to be great for the birds when feeding their young. Last spring/summer they were raided regularly by the blue tits and Sparrows for their chicks. Plenty of Aphids on them, and of course I wasn't complaining!!

I think your numbers were quite good, very similar to a lot of people!

Lisa at Greenbow said...

What a great selection of birds Shirl. That portrait is gorgeous too.

Little Brown Job said...

Impressive count there Shirl :-) I'm going to try and keep a really wild area this year to attract the insects and bugs but Debbie's not so keen.

Paul.

patientgardener said...

My results were much the same as in previous years: Chaffinch, Greenfinch, BLue Tits, Great Tit, Blackbird, Wood Pigeon, Robin, Long tailed tits, Blackcap, starling. But no Thrushes or Wrens although as ever they appeared after I had stopped counting. But we did have two Pheasants which was a first for us.

Frances said...

Hi Shirl, thanks for the history lesson. I thought the photo was one of your ancestors, there is a resemblance! :-) The plume rage seems to have subsided, I hope, as well as the use of quill pens.
Frances

shirl said...

Hi there Victoria, Nature Nut, Liz, Lisa, Paul, Helen and Frances :-)

Victoria – Very interesting yes, a surprising result between an inner London garden and a small town garden in the countryside of Scotland. Lucky you seeing the thrush – I haven’t seen one in a while. We had quite a few ‘no shows’ but that’s just the way it goes. I will continue to do bird watches throughout the year – they really make you look more closely at who’s passing through don’t they :-D

Nature Nut – Thank-you! LOL… sorry it’s really not a funny matter but I’m probably the only gardener that planted roses (not really my favs) especially to get greenflies! There were plenty on offer but sadly the blue tit female (single Mum) of last year just flew right by them. She even sat on the post above! I do think many people are also becoming aware of the importance of insects but sadly perhaps low maintenance gardens and time available perhaps leads to the bug guns :-(

Liz – I agree completely and as a non rose gardener I planted two climbers in an area near our nestboxes last year. I was thrilled to see so many greenflies ;-) They were at the right time too but sadly I saw no birds anywhere near them. Thanks for passing this on. Yes, the numbers were okay, but not really a full reflection on what is visiting at the moment. However, yes I do think that is very similar to a lot of people :-)

Lisa – Thank-you, ah yes… I also loved the portrait and a bit of a change it was too :-D

Paul – Thank-you, ah… I’m very glad you mentioned this. I plan to address this during the year as we go through the seasons. Yes, wild areas are great for insects and bugs but that really doesn’t mean the garden has to be completely wild or have a large area which perhaps puts off many people. Tell Debbie I plan to show more general views of my small garden this year especially to show that it isn’t wild but yet I get a wide variety of birds and wildlife visiting. I need a new lens first though ;-)

Helen - LOL... yes there are always the ones that appear after the event aren’t they? Yes, I suppose my species list was quite similar too although new species have found my garden since last year. You had a good list and the pheasants… that was a great addition! They really are so strange to see in the garden. I have had one (twice) wander through. It never found the food either after walking right by it where it was scattered on the ground! They would have made you smile though, I know I did :-D

Frances - You’re welcome! LOL… not quite my hair colouring but I do have a rosy complexion ;-) It was the story re-chicks being left without parents that caught my attention. I have many times worried about out blue tit parents when they have left the nestbox and are out searching for food especially when they go away for an hour. I am always so glad to see them return. Good point… I never thought on quill pens.

nina said...

It is such a treat to see your hedgehogs!!!!

Anna said...

The duchess was certainly a striking looking woman. Interesting to read about the history of the RSPB Shirl.
Here our birds must have gone on a day trip when we counted as there were fewer than what we spot most mornings. Robin, blackbird, dunnock, long tailed tit, blue tit and coal tit were all sighted. No sign though of jay, wood pigeon,chaffinch,thrush or wren who are usually regular visitors. What we have noticed in the last year or so is that we do not see greenfinches any more :(

Tricia said...

Interesting reading about the RSPB - it never hurts to be reminded of its origins!

Goodly variety of birds in the birdcount Shirl. And, like you, I will be interested in the Blue Tit count as they had yet another poor breeding year in 2008.

shirl said...

Hi there Nina, Anna & Tricia :-)

Nina – Oh… I really am thrilled that I can share them. I need to check my link list is updated. This year could be a very exciting one regarding the hedgehogs. I’ve only been seeing their visits and catching them on film during the last two years but now I have a camera in a hutch that I do believe a hedgehog is hibernating in! It all happened so quickly too – just imagine if a female used it for a nest this year. I can’t wait to see what will happen :-D

Anna – I agree, I have to confess I knew nothing about her pre this posting. LOL… the birds always do that don’t they? You still had a few but it is a shame when you know you have so many more species visiting usually – I can sympathise there. Unfortunately greenfinches do seem to be absent from some areas now - probably due to the finch disease trichomoniasis. We’ve seen that in our garden but at the moment good sized groups of 8-10 are coming in again.

Tricia – Yes, it was but I must confess I knew absolutely nothing about its origin pre this posting. Thanks, it was okay but like many others it wasn’t the full species list that visits. Yes, based on emails and comments I get so many blue tit broods have failed in the last couple of years. However, I am wondering if coal tits are on the increase. Perhaps the blue tits should watch where the coal tits get their bugs from! I supplied two climbing roses last year (I’m not a rose person either) with many greenflies on it but the blue tit didn’t take them or the mini live mealworms I supplied (single Mum struggled). To be honest as I watch the blue tit rooster cleaning out droppings from our camera nestbox right now I would worry about this year too. Last year’s weather I expect will have a knock on effect yet again. My fingers will be crossed again :-D

VP said...

Hi Shirl - just entered my data - 13 species and 29 birds. My count's lower this year, but usually is on the years when it's a dull day. However, goldfinches were a first for my count this year, they usually hide away when I whip my binoculars out for the actual count! I also had greenfinch, chaffinch, blue tit, great tit, long tailed tit, robin, blackbird, song thrush, dunnock wood pigeon, feral pigeon and carrion crow.

The Garden Birdwatch is always one of my highlights of January :)

sweet bay said...

The 6th Duchess of Portland was very lovely. It is strange that she wore plumes, but her legacy is a wonderful one.

I'm a birdwatcher too -- although rather casual now, I don't get up at the crack of dawn every morning. :) I have not participated in our Christmas Bird Counts, but I should, although I'm a little rusty.

The woodcock has started its spring dance. I actually saw on the other evening. Usually I only hear them.

easygardener said...

Long tailed tits came top for me with 6 - others were Blue Tits, Great Tits, Chaffinches, Black bird, Dunnock, Robin, Wood pigeon and Feral pigeons.
The Greater Spotted Woodpecker came after the count had finished - of course!

Juliet said...

Well, I've finally finished visiting all the desert islands, and have really enjoyed it - thank you for starting the challenge, and in the process introducing me to a lot of lovely blogs I hadn't seen before!

You did much better than I did with your birdwatch, but it was very wet down here, and I think all our birds had decided to have a weekend break on a desert island somewhere ... . I did (contrary to the impression I have given on my blog) manage to count a few, but only by accident while I was doing something else. I have found it's the only way - if they know I'm doing the birdwatch they stay away in droves ;)

shirl said...

Hi there VP, sweet bay, Denise and Juliet :-)

VP – Still a good count but yes it is a shame when it isn’t a good reflection of a ‘normal’ day. Great to see greenfinches making a return. We are seeing larger groups now too. I see Miranda has just posted on them arriving to her garden (France) for the first time. Its great that you always enjoy taking part with the birdwatch. I only started with my blog and enjoy counting at many other times of the year now too :-D

sweet bay – Ah yes… but she stopped wearing plumes I understand when she got involved supporting the RSPB. I find the counts fun and see them in a casual way too. What I really like is that I notice different bird species coming into the garden now where pre counting and watching I would have missed them. Ah… its wonderful to see the birds welcome the seasons isn’t it – what a treat to see the woodcocks :-D

Denise – Ah… there’s always one! Or two or ten… Great to see you still have the LTT, I haven’t seen ours in while. Since the snow went we haven’t seen the blackcap either. A song thrush has appeared this morning which was a surprise – its been a while since I’ve seen it. I wonder what the cold weather expected on Sunday will bring to the feeders :-D

Juliet – Well done you! I see there are more coming in yet. I’ll have to pop over to see them. I’m glad you’ve enjoyed it and discovered new blogs too – I hoped that would be the case :-) LOL… yes the count seems to mess up the usual number doesn’t it. I have a theory there that some people who maybe don’t usually feed the birds or have feeders see the count advertised (or mentioned in the news) and put out food. Then the birds are spoilt for choice and don’t get to those who regularly feed them. Huh… where’s their loyalty ;-) Yeh… but there’s always the watched kettle theory too! Funnily enough when it’s wet and cold in my garden I do see many more visitors. When it’s sunny the birds are often seen sunbathing on overlooking trees instead :-D

A wildlife gardener said...

What a delightful post, as always, Shirl :)

I enjoyed the part about the Victorian ladies and their feathers, even though I already knew the information. It was good to read about it again and to know you have informed others of the origins of the RSPB :)

Your photos are always a joy to look forward to, and this posting is no exception :)

I know you would have been so looking forward to this post in particular as you as such an avid birdwatcher...your viseos and camera-work in general testify to that :)

Isn't it wonderful that the Duchess devoted herself to the interests of birds, proving that fashion is an ephemeral thing and is at its worst when it endangers wildlife, whether birds or the big cats.

Being a lover of wildlife I am unable to bring myself to wear feathers or fur...not even from the lowly rabbit, as they were my first pets :)

Pop over and see who came to dine on the Barleycorn feast during the RSPB Birdwatch :)

A wildlife gardener said...

Sorry for my spelling mistakes, Shirl...I meant to say 'You are an avid birdwatcher ...and your videos testify to that'...

Patsi said...

So glad you did this post.
I've browsed the RSPB website and found it full of new information to me.
Didn't see the story on how it started, guess I should read more.
I'm guessing the bird with the orange bib is a robin...so pretty.
Love seeing your pictures.
Amazing how many different varieties of birds there are.
Thanks for sharing,
Patsi

shirl said...

Hi there Wildlife Gardener and Patsi :-),

Wildlife Gardener – Thank-you, all this was new to me so I thought I’d share it. Thank-you, I do enjoy taking and editing my videos as you know. The photos are sometimes a bigger challenge especially through the window at the moment. Yes, I did enjoy the birdwatch and would agree that neither feathers nor fur would appeal to me either. Ah… I see now who has been visiting – wonderful to see a video too :-D

Patsi – I am delighted! I had hoped it would be of interest to visitors outside the UK. Yes, the orange bib did belong to the European Robin. Thanks, I do enjoy seeing yours too. I enjoyed your latest posting guessing which bird it was. Nice idea with the envelope – I might try that one day too if you don’t mind. LOL- I guessed the wren but at the same time was drawn to open the envelope – just to see how it worked you understand ;-)

z4mmo said...

Hello folks, I enjoyed reading your comments and thought you might be interested in a personal project that I am working on. The Guardian newspaper has made the raw birdwatch data available to the public so I have made a website which produces a geographical overview of sightings by species.
You can visit the site at beakysearch.appspot.com