The RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch 2008: Results for shirls gardenwatch

This morning between 10-11am I took part in the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch 2008. It was a very windy morning as I topped up my feeders just before 9am. I have found that newly filled feeders sometimes take up to an hour for the birds to descend on them in their usual numbers.

Update March 26th 2008: If you are looking for the results from the RSPB they just came out this morning. I have also just posted on them too with comparisons to last year.

The RSPB bird count is for the UK only. However, I thought I would be interesting to see what visits gardens in other parts of the world too. So I enlisted some help from some friends in the blogging community to take part with us this weekend. You will find details of their counts at the bottom of this post which I will update as they come in. I will also add a link here at the end of March for the results of the RSPB count.

Just before I began counting a jackdaw came down for a few peanuts I put on top of the sunflower hearts in the small seed tray next to my hanging feeders. This jackdaw always spots them there! However just like a grey heron that flew over my garden it didn’t appear in my results – birds flying over the garden don’t count. Two crows also flew over.

A photo montage of the different garden birds that visited during my bird count this morning I thought would be much more interesting to see – especially for any visitors reading this from outside the UK. These really are pretty little garden birds. You can still see a list of the statistics below. Looking at the photos, one photo represents one of that species visiting although many females did visit too.

Half-way through my bird count and I was happy that although some numbers were down on a usual day it still was a fairly good account of my visiting birds. The numbers of chaffinches and siskins in particular were increasing at the feeders although the birds are always nervous on a windy day. I was beginning to wonder how many chaffinches I could manage to count accurately as each visit brought more. Then, as I almost got a number, the wind would get up and the birds would scatter away into my hedge and surrounding trees. Of course the photo below shows what happened next!!

As suspected, although I still couldn’t believe her timing at 10.30am, a young female Sparrowhawk flew down and perched herself on the roof of my shed. She stayed there for a minute or so which was just enough time for me to move my tripod and get a few photos. Unfortunately I had problems with my focus settings trying to catch her quickly. Her feathers were getting blown about as she sat and the wind caught her too and I noticed her claws held tightly to my shed. She could clearly hear the birds hiding in my shed as she was turning round and looking towards it a few times as well as watching the ground too. She eventually flew off with nothing this time.

My count was as good as over then! It was 20 minutes before any birds returned to the feeders with the first being the chaffinches who were, not surprisingly, top of my list today. The chaffinch was top of the list for the whole of Scotland last year but my garden had the starlings with just one more. Funnily enough since the invasion of starlings into my garden with their young last summer they only visit occasionally now. There is just one bird that somtimes comes (most unusual for the starlings) and feeds with the blackbirds on the ground.

I blame the fatcakes for unsociable numbers of starlings! I guess you will agree with me on this, Robin! I now have one fatcake but it is in a feeder with a cage around it called a fatcake guardian– maybe you have something like this in the USA Robin? The blackcap, robin, blue and great tits are enjoying being able to get peace (at the moment) eating in it. However, I have to say that any claims of completely stopping the larger birds getting in this cage are false. It only took one slim starling working out it how to get in last year – with others watching! They are smart birds, starlings! However, they are on the endangered list here in the UK and this is where the statistics give a good picture of numbers. In my garden you could say after being top in my bird count last year they have gone from hero to zero! I wonder where all the juveniles went? So, now to my statistics for 2008 below.

13 CHAFFINCHES Fringilla coelebs (12 last year)
7 SISKINS Carduelis spinus (none last year)
5 HOUSE SPARROWS Passer domesticus (6 last year)
3 BLACKBIRDS Turdus merula (same last year)
3 BLUE TITS Parus caeruleus (same last year)
3 GOLDFINCHES Carduelis carduelis (2 last year)
2 GREENFINCHES Carduelis chloris (3 last year)
2 WOODPIGEONS Columba palumbus (5 last year)
1 ROBIN Erithacus rubecula (2 last year)
1 DUNNOCK Prunella modularis (same last year)
1 BLACKCAP Sylvia atricapilla (none last year)
1 SPARROWHAWK Accipter nisus (none last year)

Today, I have to blame the woodpigeon for perching itself on my neighbours pruned cherry tree overlooking my garden for spoiling what was looking like a good count from my garden! It made an excellent ‘Café Open’ sign for any Sparrowhawks looking out from mature trees in the distance! If it hadn’t visited today I wonder if the Sparrowhawk would have. I should also say here that we haven’t seen as many woodpigeons visiting the garden recently – last year at this time we could easily have seen five. I am guessing the Sparrowhawk is perhaps responsible as I have noticed a patch of grey feathers in the same place on my neighbours lawn on more than a few occasions.

Finally, I would like to say a huge thanks to everyone outside the UK, listed below, who joined me with a bird count.

NOVA SCOTIA Canada, Sarah see comments
GEORGIA USA, Jayne see comments and post
SWITZERLAND, Barbara see comments
VIRGINIA USA, Entangled see post ‘Counting Crows’
SW INDIANA USA, Lisa see post
NOVA SCOTIA Canada, Jodi see post
N ILLINOIS USA, Mr McGregor’s Daughter see comments
CENTRAL INDIANA, Robin see comments
SE TENNESSEE USA, Frances see post
NETHERLANDS, Yolanda see comments
FLORIDA KEYS USA, Jane see comments

Thanks also go to Carol in Indiana USA and Ewa in Poland for taking part see comments.

30 thoughts on “The RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch 2008: Results for shirls gardenwatch

  1. Are starlings really endangered in the UK? They are such resourceful urban and open-country birds here in NS (and my bird guide says they are widespread across N.A.) that it’s hard to believe they could be endangered anywhere.

    I am initially inclined to dislike starlings, being an introduced species and liable to prey on songbird nests and the like, but they can be very precocious in a park setting. Maybe the UK would like some of ours back?

  2. Hi there, Sarah 🙂

    Yes, The Starling is now on the RSPB RED list for the highest conservation priority as a species needing urgent attention. The RSPB also have lists of amber and green status. The house sparrow is also on the RED list.

    I agree, the starlings are not always popular in gardens as they are noisy, greedy eaters and usually disperse many of the smaller birds when they visit. In other settings they are a different matter entirely – they look fantastic flying in groups when they make incredible moving sculptures in the sky 😀

    Hopefully their numbers will increase and it won’t have to be reintroduced. It is good that is surviving well with you in Nova Scotia – we will know where to find some 😀

  3. Hi Shirl!

    Well, I did my count for an hour yesterday morning, and as far as I could tell, here in Northwest Georgia, USA, I had:

    American Goldfinch- at least 100 (not kidding)
    House Finch-6
    Pine Siskin-2
    Eastern Bluebird-3
    Carolina Wren-1
    Pine Warbler-3
    Downy Woodpecker-1
    Red Bellied Woodpecker-1
    Mourning Dove-8
    Eastern Phoebe-1
    Northern Mockingbird-1
    Brown-headed Nuthatch-2
    Red-breasted Nuthatch-1
    Carolina Chickadee-3
    Tufted Titmouse-5
    Dark-eyed Junco-2

    Thanks for asking me to participate! It was great fun. :c)

  4. Shirl, I looked at my feeder a few times yesterday but no birds were feeding. I think they are still in the process of finding me. Sounds like the birds had no trouble finding your feeders!

  5. Hi again, Jayne and Carol 🙂

    Jayne = Wow! I see you have a photo of the American goldfinches feeding in your garden too! Thanks so much for joining in with a count from your garden in Georgia, USA. What a fantastic range of birds visit your garden. I have seen some before in yours and other blogs but I will need to get a book to see more photos now 😀

    Carol – I’m sure the birds will eventually become regular feeders now that you have sunflower hearts waiting for them! I wonder if you will see large numbers of goldfinches in Indiana? Yes, I had a few birds yesterday but I do get more species and much higher numbers on a usual day. Thanks for looking out for birds in your garden too 😀

  6. Yesterday evening I filled the feeder and I counted around midday. We had a lot of sun and temperatures around +6°C. So, this is what I saw:
    a lot of bluetits (certainly more than 20, sitting in the little tree near the feeding place)
    2 blackbirds (turdus merula) on the ground walking
    1 pica pica sitting on the birch
    2 corvus c. corone also flying from one tree to the other
    2 robins (erithacus rubecula)
    6 house sparrows (passer domesticus)
    3 coal tits (parus major)
    1 unidentified
    I think the weather was too good for the birds to come to the feeding place. But it was fun to watch them…their behaviour sometimes looked rather “human” ;-)!!
    Have a good week!

  7. Shirl, I just posted the list of birds I saw this morning. It was a gray morning, and I’m still practicing with my new camera lens, so no pictures from today’s count. I did get a nice picture of an Eastern Bluebird earlier in the week.

    Thanks for inviting me to your bird count!

  8. I am really impressed by your count!
    Your birds are sweet 🙂
    Ours were hiding entire weekend – I saw only 1! bird in my feeder, the other 4 were passing by.
    Weather was really awfull – nobody wated to fly 🙁

  9. Hi again, Barbara 🙂

    Wow!! What a lot of blue tits to visit in an hour. We only ever see at the most four – except when there are juveniles visiting in the summer when we may see seven or eight. Is this usual for so many to visit at this time of year? I am wondering how many you could have next summer if they successfully raise broods 😀

    It is very interesting to see that all the birds that visit your garden in Switzerland can also all be seen in my garden in Scotland! I agree it is very likely that the warm weather gave the birds no reason to rush to the feeders. Thanks so much for taking time to do a bird count with me. I agree it is really interesting and entertaining to watch the behaviour of our garden birds 😀

    Thanks – wishing you a good week too 😀

  10. Hi again, Entangled 🙂

    Thanks for joining me with a bird count from your garden. Looking at your post you had a wide variety of birds. It is also interesting to see that you are regularly recording your visiting birds too. It is great that with access to the internet we can very easily help record statistics of birds and wildlife.

    Yes, it can be quite frustrating trying to get used to new settings with your camera especially when you want to take a shot in a hurry! I love your photo of the Bluebird – its feathers almost look like it has fallen in a tub of deep blue dye 😀

    You are very welcome – I am glad you were able to join me 😀

  11. Hi again, Ewa 🙂

    Thank-you! I was glad to get a good selection of the birds that visit although there are quite a few more that come too. It would have been good to have had a count without the sparrowhawk 🙂

    Yes, the strong winds were a problem for my count too but I suppose that is what makes these surveys work. Up and down the country our weather would have been different. Although I do wonder why January was chosen for a count? I have to agree about the birds being sweet but then again I think all garden birds are lovely 😀

    Perhaps your birds were also hiding from a predator and not just the bad weather!

  12. Hi Shirl,

    Not bad results considering the Sparrowhawk and the Woodpigeons (they are a pain), very interesting to compare last years results with this years, very happy to see Siskin numbers increasing. Wish I had done it now but went out instead, maybe I will do it just out of interest and keep a record for next year.

  13. Shirl, I just posted on my blog what I had at the feeders for an hour. If I had watched longer I know I could have added other species but your one hour limit was my guide line. We are located in SW Indiana, USA.


  14. Hi again, Mike 🙂

    Yes I agree, I still cannot believe her timing at exactly 10.30am just when my count was starting to look good! I have never seen her sit that long either. I just wish I had managed better photos seeing as she was there – but they were taken through the window at an angle!

    Yes, had I not taken part last year I would never have remembered we had lots of starlings then – having none this year really is quite a difference! Ah, the siskin – I am delighted to see them still with us and there are around twelve that I have managed to count too. It would be interesting if you still did a count, as you say, it would give you a comparison for next year 😀

  15. Hi again, Lisa 🙂

    Thanks for joining me with a count from your garden in SW Indiana. You have twelve different species just as I had although I didn’t see any squirrels! In fact I haven’t seen any visit my garden at all since I stopped putting peanuts under my Acer tree 😀

    50 House sparrows, 15 house finches and 8 dark-eyed junco sounds impressive to me! You had a few more of other species too. If you were disappointed with your count I expect you must see a lot more usually – you must have a great garden for birds 😀

  16. Hi Shirl: Got my bird count report up now, but I don’t know how to post a live link here: I did make a tiny url, which is tinyurl.com/22z3o2

    It was a lot of fun…cold again today, but not as windy. And no eagles here at the house, of course. 🙂

  17. Shirl – this bird count was an eye-opener for me. I did mine while shoveling the driveway yesterday morning from 7-8 a.m. While I saw some Finches & Wrens in the trees behind my next-door neighbor’s house & heard a couple of Song Sparrows, I saw only 2 birds on my property, high up in trees. They were a nesting pair of cardinals. I couldn’t get a good shot of either 1, as they were too far & the light was all wrong for it. There used to be a lot of birds in my garden. What happened? Development. Last Fall, developers cleared all the trees from a wooded 2-acre area behind the house across the street from me. Loss of habitat & cold have made for the abysmal showing. Even the Mourning Doves that were such frequent visitors are missing. Now I’m mourning.

  18. Shirl, I tried to do a count yesterday from 11:00 AM to noon and was off to a good start, with a blue jay, female cardinal, downy woodpecker and three Carolina chickadees, then the starlings and sparrows arrived. I had put out the Zick dough and there were so many starlings and sparrows I couldn’t have possibly counted them all. Of course when they came the other birds left. I gave up.

    If you guys need starlings, I’ll be glad to send you mine!

    I tried again today, but it was a warm, (43degrees F.) and sunny. I didn’t see a single bird at the feeders other than my lone downy woodpecker.

    I want to keep using the Zick dough, so I’ll have to see if I can find a starling proof solution.

  19. I have posted my count for this year. There were some regular customers that did not show up during the hour I choose, but the talley was respectable.

    Frances at Faire Garden

  20. Hi Shirl,

    Here are the results of the Dutch count. 😉 I did mine on Saturday:

    9 chaffinches
    8 house sparrows
    2 great tits
    2 turtle doves
    2 blackbirds
    2 starlings (pecking away at the fat cakes)
    1 blue tit
    1 wren
    1 greenfinch
    1 robin
    1 hedgesparrow

    So you see, you’re not the only one with such a pletora of chaffinches. Mine usually come to feed together with the housesparrows.

    The top ten of most spotted birds in my country last weekend:

    1) housesparrows
    2) great tits
    3) blackbirds
    4) blue tits
    5) starlings
    6) chaffinches
    7) Jackdaws
    8) turtle doves
    9) wood pidgeons
    10)tree sparrows

    The sparrows are making a strong come back I’m happy to say.

  21. Hi again, Jodi and Mr McGregor’s Daughter 🙂

    Jodi – Thanks for joining my on this and for all your link backs too! I’ve been over to see your count which looked good! No eagles as you say but your previous post makes up for that! I’m not sure what you mean about a live link but I added one here as well as in my post hope this is what you meant 😀

    Mr McGregor’s Daughter – Thanks for joining me but sorry to hear that it has been a revelation for you. I agree completely that the cutting down of the trees is very likely to be responsible for the loss of birds visiting your garden. How sad this is but unfortunately this is likely to be the case everywhere with new developments isn’t it 🙁 This is where we the gardeners become the bird’s friend 😀

  22. What a wonderful blog. Beautiful photos too. So nice to be able to see your garden visitors in this way. We did the bird count too, here in Manchester uk. Goldfinches and sparrows, a blue tit, a greenfinch and magpies visited our feeders on the green.
    I took some (v poor) photos of the goldfinches, but what fun it was!
    Thank you for sharing your garden treasures, Shirl.

  23. Hi again, Robin, Frances and Yolanda 🙂

    Robin – Thanks for trying a count knowing the starlings would come! I am guessing by looking at your photos that the zick dough is the same as our fatcake. I gave a mention about that in my post especially with you in mind. You will find it above my count list. It has a link for something that might help a little with your starling problem. Not surprisingly yours is not the first offer of starlings 😀

    Frances – delighted to see the red cardinals I was hoping someone would get them visiting! The hour is tricky and it can be disappointing not to see the usual numbers. However the RSPB says these figures average out and still give account of birds in our gardens. Thanks for joining in a count and posting photos too.

    Yolanda – Thanks for the Dutch entry 😉 It was very interesting to see how similar our counts are. If you were comparing a garden from England or Wales they may well be quite different from mine. Funnily enough the Chaffinch was only the top of the list in Scotland last year. It was 5th place in the UK with house sparrows taking top spot. Great to hear your house sparrows are on the increase. It will be interesting to hear how ours fair this year 😀

  24. Hello, Julie 🙂

    Thank-you! How nice to hear from someone who did a count here in the UK 😀

    Good to hear that you still have goldfinches, sparrows and greenfinches in your area. I know this is not so in some other parts of England and Wales not too far away from where you are.

    I am glad you enjoyed getting photos too. It is quite challenging to catch a moving target – that’s what makes it so rewarding isn’t it? I still have a lot to learn to get better photos myself but I really enjoy taking them. If you browse my links column for bird/wildlife blogs you’ll see some great photos there 😀

  25. Wow, how I love the image of all these folks taking the time to count their birds! Sometimes I think nobody ever stops to simply and enjoy and observe the things going on outside. It’s nice to know I’m wrong.

    I feel woefully inadequate compared to your other commenters, since I recognize very few birds by name: robin, blue bird, pigeon. I can sometimes see hawks and even the occasional eagle overhead. Along with the migrating egrets, they all consider my fish pond to be an all-you-can-eat sushi buffet.

    During summer, we even have a flock of parrots – presumably the adapted offspring of escaped pets – but they’ve long since headed further south for winter.

  26. Hi there, WS 🙂

    Thank-you for your comment! I cannot agree more that there is so much we can miss outside. I have found that by writing about what is going on in my garden I have to ‘really look’ and as you have seen in the comments of this post I’m not the only one 😀

    I too only knew the names of the most common birds before the last two years. If I videoed or photographed a bird and wanted to post on it I found myself looking up books for ID’s. I am a novice when it comes to birds 😀

    Thank-you for sharing the visitors to your garden – I cannot imagine a flock of parrots turning up at my feeders! I can however imagine the birds at your pond as that’s exactly what I thought when the grey heron flew over my garden on Saturday morning – he was out for a take-away!

  27. Hi Shirl:
    I loved your photos and your post on the birds for your Birdwatch. This is such a fun idea. Watching birds and all their adorable antics is one thing I love to do on any day!

    I fully intended to participate but it was one of those odd weekends when I couldn’t seem to stop for an hour to do my observing. My grandchildren were with me all weekend and Sunday morning we woke to some odd happenings in my backyard. From my kitchen window I caught sight of two huge turkey vultures obviously picking at something dead behind one of my flower beds. Turns out it was an oppossum. More vultures came and went -as they do -circling overhead and fending off each other on the ground. It was quite the eye-full for my 9 and 5 yr olds. Too bad I didn’t even get a photo of any of the action… they really are ugly birds and not too tempting to photograph.

    I also enjoyed everyone else’s count and photos.

  28. Hi again, Meems 🙂

    Thank-you. Yes, I am really appreciating the antics of garden birds now too especially on cold, wet or wintry days when it’s great to look out on them 🙂

    No probs that you didn’t take part with a count I appreciate that you intended to do one – instead you’ve been able to share your turkey vulture story! Wow, that must have been quite a sight especially them circling above. They make my Sparrowhawk seem like a canary in comparison 😀

    I can completely understand that you didn’t get photos – part of you probably wouldn’t want to take them anyway I bet. Yes, I agree it was very interesting to read and see photos from the other counts 😀

  29. Hi Shirl. I’m staying on an island in the Florida Keys, USA at the moment. I visited the neighbouring island on Saturday and went for an hours walk in the nature reserve (which is made up of tropical hard wood forest (hammock), beach and mangrove. I didn’t do a proper count, but these are the birds I saw: 4 x osprey, 5 x Northern Cardinal, 5 x ibis, 1 x banded kingfisher, 1 x egret, 6 x brown pelicans, 1 x blue heron & a whole flock of yellow rumped warblers (about 10). Your birds looked great! Take care. Jane

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