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Up with the Larks


“Up with the larks” is an expression meaning to be awake and out of your bed early in the morning and in the week beginning Monday 6 January that is exactly what nine keen households on Arran were doing as part of the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) Early Bird Survey.

The winter months are a challenge for our garden birds. Longer nights and shorter days mean less daylight to find food and during cold nights birds lose a large proportion of weight just keeping warm.  Birds have to make the most of the daylight hours and replenish their energy reserves as soon as possible.

Which birds start feeding first in the morning, was one of the questions that this BTO Early Bird Survey was trying to answer.  People taking part in the survey had to get up before sunrise and note the times that different species of birds arrived in the garden.  Other information that the BTO was looking for was the overnight temperature and the proximity of street lights.
Nationally the BTO are saying that it has been a huge success with over 3,300 submissions from 147 different areas.

Blackbird definitely wins the Early Bird title arriving, on average, about 11 minutes after daybreak, closely followed by Robin and Blue Tit. You can see the initial results here. Early Bird Survey Bird National Results Summary  http://blx1.bto.org/ebs/ebs-results.jsp
One conclusion is that the birds with relatively large eyes arrive earlier.  They are better able to see in low levels of light.

As further analysis of the national results is done it will be interesting to see if there is any impact of temperature or artificial light on arrival time. For example do birds arrive a little bit later if it is warmer overnight because less energy has been lost overnight or do birds arrive a little earlier if there is artificial light nearby making it easier for birds to see their food.

As for Arran, the participation level was good in comparison to other islands: Arran nine, Skye five, Western Isles three, Mull one, Bute one and Islay none.  Thank you to everyone who took part.  The number of species seen in the first hour of day on Arran was fifteen and an initial analysis ofArran results gives the same top three early risers as the national results, namely Blackbird, Robin and Blue Tit.

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