Big Garden Birdwatch 2015

Friday, January 30, 2015 Adam Tilt 2 Comments

On Sunday we took part in the RSPB's annual Big Garden Birdwatch, the largest citizen science project of its kind and one which has been reporting on the state of our nations birds since 1979. You only need look at the number of people who have already submitted their records this year (currently 303,895) to see just how popular the count has become. For those new to the event it essentially involves watching and counting the birds which appear in your garden across a single hour. Sounds simple, and it is, though you can pretty much guarantee that your more unusual visitors wont turn up during the allotted time. Frustrating for those of us who like to boast of their avian friends but perhaps a fairer representation of which species really do rely on our garden feeders.

P1100657 - Robin

This year our chosen hour was between twelve and one, not usually the gardens busiest time but with bad weather approaching we wanted to get our count in as early as possible (and before anyway says anything twelve is early for a Sunday!). Initially things were disappointingly quiet with the recent substantial flocks of Chaffinches and House Sparrows much reduced or in the case of the latter absent entirely. Instead we had to rely on our regulars, the Blue Tits, Great Tits, Dunnocks, Robin and Blackbird. As the hour ticked by however numbers began to steadily increase until with just ten minutes to go we were almost back up to full strength. Even the recently elusive Coal Tit had popped in for a couple of Sunflower seeds before hiding itself away back in the hedge. What we really had our fingers crossed for though were the Long-tailed Tits, a flock of which are now pretty regular visitors here but only for very brief spells. You can imagine our excitement therefore when all eight of them arrived with barely a couple of minutes to go, a rush of action to bring our watch to an end.

Totting up afterwards we recorded a very respectable 37 individuals across 10 species. The only significant miss was Collared Doves and it was with regret that for another year in succession we failed to see any Starlings at all. Back in 2011 we had an impressive twelve present, but alas no more.

12:40 - 13:40
Jackdaw (2)
Blackbird (1)
Robin (1)
Chaffinch (7)
Blue Tit (5)
House Sparrow (8)
Great Tit (2)
Coal Tit (1)
Long-tailed Tit (8)
Dunnock (2)

With those results submitted I wanted to test out a theory. I've long suspected that the hour before dusk is far busier in the garden than at any other time so from three until four we repeated the count. For the first half hour activity around the feeders was absolutely frenetic despite bird numbers being relatively similar to earlier in the day. There was a constant movement between our property and each neighbour which made counting far more difficult though as time progressed a steady increase in both Chaffinches and House Sparrows was observed. I'm particularly pleased at this as each used to be a mainstay here but seem to have decreased in number over the last couple of years. Now that they're back let's hope it's for good and I shall be putting up a few new nest boxes at the weekend to try and encourage breeding this spring.

15:05 - 16:05
Pied Wagtail (1)
Robin (1)
House Sparrow (12)
Chaffinch (11)
Dunnock (2)
Great Tit (2)
Blue Tit (5)
Blackbird (1)

As you can see from the numbers above we finished a couple of birds down on the earlier count due to a complete no show from the Long-tailed Tits but did pick up a very confiding male Pied Wagtail. Though not conclusive I think my theory holds water and at the very least it was a thoroughly enjoyable way to while away a couple of hours.


  1. Back yard bird counts are very important how else could that amount of info be collected. Can't believe, no Starlings,
    I dont see them in my own yard but they are on every wire overlooking the fields around us.

    1. The lack of Starlings is certainly a sad state of affairs and unfortunately something which is being repeated around the country.


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