The last weekend in January 2019 was the weekend of the RSPB Big Garden Bird Watch. This was the fortieth year of this event. Individuals, families or groups not only took part in this survey of garden birds but some shared their results with me. This year there were twenty-four sets of results sent to me. This was a few less than last year. Some participants commented on the negative impact of the unsettled weather on the number of birds that were around but this is not reflected in the overall figures. In fact more species were recorded this year. The following were recorded this year but not recorded in 2018: Song Thrush, Goldcrest, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Common Gull and Raven. In contrast the following were not recorded this year but were recorded in 2018: Blackcap, Grey Wagtail and Mistle Thrush. This year in the survey, thirty species were recorded in Arran gardens.
This year Chaffinch was reported in every garden except one in the survey. This is similar to the last eight years. Chaffinch remains not only the “top garden” bird in terms of the percentage of gardens in which it is seen but also Chaffinch had the largest total of birds, namely 181.
From the collation from all the gardens, the top ten birds this year in terms of the number of gardens in which they were seen are: Chaffinch, Blue Tit, Coal Tit, Great Tit, Robin, Blackbird, House Sparrow, Dunnock, Crow(Hooded/Carrion) and Woodpigeon. The first eight of these have been in the top ten in slightly different orders for the last five years. While Robin has gone down the order from last year, the tit family has all gone up. Crow and Woodpigeon have replaced Siskin and Goldfinch from the top ten of 2018. Another notable change from last year is Greenfinch. Last year it was recorded in 17% of gardens whereas this year it was reported in 39% of gardens. This may be reflecting a recovery from the devastation caused to Greenfinch by the parasitic disease, Trichomonas.
By far the largest total of birds seen was Chaffinch with 181. House Sparrow was the next most counted species with 105, Coal Tit was third with 60, closely followed by Blue Tit on 55. For a collation of all the Arran data from the Big Garden Birdwatch for the last four years click here
While this information is interesting, too much should not be read into these small samples. It is a fun survey to do but it only covers one weekend in the year. If you enjoyed doing it, there is a garden bird watch that you can join that encourages people to record their garden bird sightings every week of the year, the British Trust for Ornithology Garden BirdWatch (GBW). To find out more about the BTO Garden BirdWatch visit the website http://www.bto.org/volunteer-surveys/gbw
Finally in Sweden there is a similar survey to the RSPB survey. The most frequent bird table visitor from the Swedish survey is Great Tit, with other spaces at the head of the list taken by Tree Sparrow, Greenfinch, Yellowhammer, Blue Tit and Blackbird. ( Winter Birds by Lars Jonsson published by Bloomsbury in 2017).