Tuesday, 29 January 2013

2013 RSPB Birdwatch Results

Before we get to the (exciting late entry) results from the shirls gardenwatch, Perthshire Garden let’s take a look at who opted out during my one hour count.

The now regular female Great Spotted Woodpecker chose to pop by early morning missing out on her chance to be included. The pre count regular small group of Long-tailed Tits weren’t seen all weekend and haven’t been seen since which is a pity as they were very entertaining to watch.

Watching out for the all year round, regular Dunnocks was tricky with the depth of snow we had making it difficult to see them in the edges they favour like under my hedge. I suspect they were there. It’s not surprising at all that they were once known as Hedge Sparrows. So the Dunnock didn’t appear in my count nor did the wished for lone Fieldfare who has been seen outside my garden – but it was spotted just after!

It’s perhaps not difficult to guess why our regular garden birds opt out during our counts over the Birdwatch weekend. Successful promotion of this event had a staggering 600,000 submitted counts last year and with mentions in all media from local newspapers to Twitter word gets round to people who perhaps don’t normally feed the birds but like the idea of taking part.

So our garden regulars are perhaps spoilt for food choices during the weekend of the Birdwatch? Like others, I suspect so. Our garden birds will have no loyalty whatsoever to all of us who go out every morning (in all weather) to top up and clean feeders. Many would agree that it’s disappointing when the count doesn’t match a normal day in the garden.

Some might also say that doing a count when there is snow on the ground could give an inaccurate count. However, this also gives a picture of the birds that are struggling to find food during harsh winter conditions when unexpected species arrive in gardens. All the stats we supply the RSPB help towards understanding our UK bird population and has value for conservation.

Choosing to do my bird count with the good covering of snow we had on Saturday (knowing it might rain on Sunday) I was hoping that we’d see the now regular winter visiting Bramblings who have been at the feeders for a while now. Four were spotted on my neighbours overlooking tree but I could only confirm that one was spotted at my feeders during my count. I was delighted – but there was another surprise to come during the last five minutes of my count.

Thanks to watching extra closely for my Birdwatch count I spotted a bird that I would have probably missed visit completely. Spookliy, my photos below show this surprise visitor was quite familiar with one of my feeders too! I wonder how often she has been visiting. Fortunately my camera was to hand as initially I wasn’t sure what I was seeing.

Once zoomed in on my photos I started to suspect a female Reed Bunting and image searches confirmed my ID. Wow… this took my species count to 14 which is the best so far… and I had a new visitor too! A male Reed Bunting made a brief appearance in the same tree back during the heavy snows of January 2011 (but went nowhere near the feeders) and his visit helped me in my ID guess.

My stats in the image below show a good representation of the bird species visiting my garden just now although not accurate in numbers where the finches are concerned. We get large groups of finches visiting just now and after the count was over… down they all came! Ah well… I was still very happy with my count and as expected Chaffinches still reign top bird in my garden :-)




Although grainy zoomed in images in the montage below, they might help anyone else ID a female Reed Bunting. I know the duller, not perfect images have helped me in the past – note the reddish markings. Note the dark outline shape in the tree where I first spotted her en route to the sunflower heart feeder too.




What a great few garden captures of a female Reed Bunting happily feeding with a Brambling, Goldfinch and Chaffinch I got. I still can’t believe I was seeing this at all in my garden far less during my one hour count!

She was completely at home with the feeder ports too – amazing considering this is a bird with a habitat of reed beds, wet pastures and marshes. It seems that in winter, the Reed Bunting will sometimes look for food when deprived of their natural resources due to snow and ice. Although, it is expected to look on the ground for the sunflower hearts and seeds - not at a feeder!






During my count, taken 10:45-11:45 am last Saturday, the weather revealed our first blue sky in ages and with the sun out too I already expected many birds could chose to sunbathe and not appear at the feeders.

Shortly after, a single bird high in a distant tree caught my eye. I guess I should have considered it to be the lone Fieldfare I keep hoping will feed on the fruit available in my garden. Not being able to make out what bird this was I got out my video camera - although the zoom is limited.

On selecting the spot metering option on my video camera the dark shape revealed an out of focus Fieldfare having this huge tree all to itself. Then… a group of Starlings dropped down to branches just below it and started preening. The Fieldfare paid them no attention. It wasn’t interested in the fast approaching newcomer either as it came straight towards it, then right round behind it deliberately knocking it off the branch.

The Fieldfare just moved further down the tree beside the other Starlings - again being completely uninterested in them. It went back to surveying the area from on high until… another newcomer Starling swooped in came in too close behind. At this point the Fieldfare had had enough of the badly behaved Starlings and flew off… if only it had come to my garden… everyone was behaving here ;-)




I hope everyone that took part in the 2013 RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch enjoyed it as much as I did. I’ve enjoyed seeing the results and comments other bloggers have put up too. I wonder if anyone else saw an unexpected bird visitor during the hour? I wonder even more, if anyone else sees Reed Buntings in their gardens?



This post was published by Shirley for shirls gardenwatch in January 2013.

7 comments:

Lisa at Greenbow said...

What fun photos of your feeder birds. Looks like you had a good turn out.

myhesperidesgarden said...

Hi Shirl, I'm surprised you had so many blackbirds, I thought they were very territorial so the most you might see would be a pair. Christina

Sue Garrett said...

Great to get a photo of several species on your feeder at the same time.

I see they like sunflower hearts as our birds do. It's the number 1 favourite

ShySongbird said...

Hi Shirley, You had a pretty good count there! The Reed Bunting was brilliant! I know some of my more rural blogland friends see them in their gardens sometimes but for a less rural garden I think it's a wonderful sighting :-) Lovely that you caught the Brambling on camera too.

Joe said...

Great that you managed to see both a Reed Bunting and a Brambling- especially the Reed Bunting, that really must have been a surprise. I know that Reed Buntings have been known very occasionally to visit feeding stations around nature reserves and places like that, but to see one in a garden must have been quite unusual.

Our counts were distinctly average so its good to see you had some better luck :)

Shirley said...

Hello everyone and thanks for all your comments :-)

Lisa, it has always been fun capturing photos of the birds. Good on the species count anyway :-)

Christina, oh no, we get lots of Blackbirds. I’d say this number was accurate but recently with the snow we had considerably more :-)

Sue, it was a great capture at the feeders, I was delighted. Yes, sunflower hearts are hard to beat :-)

Jan, sorry this comment initially went in spam. Don’t know what happened there. Sorry to hear you’ve had probs with comments elsewhere too. Yes, very happy with my species count and absolutely thrilled with the Reed Bunting. There is woodland and water within walking distance so that’s probably where this bird came from - a nice thought. I was so focussed on getting a shot of the reed bunting for an ID that I didn’t realise the Brambling was even on the feeder – it was a lovely surprise to see it! What a great surprise for you finally getting to see a Waxwing and you drove straight past it first time – that did make me smile as I’m sure I’ve done things like that too. As I’ve said, I thought I was hearing a car alarm with mine ;-)

Joe, absolutely – a double delight there! We have a Nature Reserve not too far away so perhaps this one came from the water edges there. Yes, typical low numbers in count but that’s to be expected by now – no loyalty ;-)

Angie said...

I'm glad I read this, I'm not entirely sure if I've got those reed buntings visiting the garden, if I have, they would have been counted along with the sparrows. I always do a double take thinking they are possibly female chaffinches!!
I'll need to take a closer look and try capture one on camera!
Sparrows were my most popular visitor and I was having trouble counting past 30 at one point!!