This morning I spent an hour gazing out of our bedroom window with a coffee, a notebook, and a pair of binoculars. Not sure what the neighbours opposite us thought I was doing but I was happy – this weekend is the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch! I’ve taken part in it every year since Karin and I moved into our present house in February 2012, and I thought it was time to show the results to date.
As you can see in the graph above, for the first couple of years there were relatively few birds (only 6 species in 2013, 8 in 2014). Then in 2015 it jumped to 15 species, including some that I’ve not recorded in the garden since such as Lesser redpoll. Two reasons for this sudden increase I think. First of all, January 2015 was particualrly cold which meant that more birds were moving into urban areas looking for food and a little more warmth. But secondly, and the reason why higher bird diversity has been maintained since then, is that we’ve been developing the garden and planting more shrubs, small trees, etc.
So since 2012 we’ve gone from this:
This planting and development of the garden has been good for other wildlife including bees, butterflies and other pollinators, as I’ve recounted a number of times. So here’s a close up from last summer just to remind us that, on this grey, drizzly January day, spring is not so far away:
Of course you don’t need to have a garden to take part in the Big Garden Birdwatch – the RSPB also accepts data from surveys of public parks and green space. In fact tomorrow morning I’m leading a group of residents around our local park, The Racecourse, to do just such a survey.
Right, must go and upload this years data to the RSPB’s site.
The latest in a regular series of posts to biodiversity-related* items that have caught my attention during the week:
- The British Government’s official line on the impact of neonicotinoid pesticides on bee health is largely based on a widely criticised study conducted by the UK’s Food & Environment Research Agency (FERA) which concluded that there was no link to bumblebee pesticide exposure and colony performance. Professor Dave Goulson at the University of Sussex has now reanalysed the original data and shown that in fact there was a significant effect of the pesticides on those nests. You can read the study in full here. How could the FERA scientists get it so wrong? Were they influenced by Defra’s desire to come to a particular conclusion?
- It will be interesting to see how FERA responds to this criticism of their work, though it may take a while to get a full answer: the lead scientist on the study now works for agrochemicals firm Syngenta….
- The story has also been picked up by some media outlets, notably the Guardian. Pity they confused honey bees with bumblebees though – managed honey bees use human-made hives; bumblebees use nests (even artificial ones).
- The RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch, which I talked about in a post earlier this year, has reported its results. There seems to be good news for some species, but for others it was bad: for example, there’s been an 80% drop in observations of starling since the scheme began in 1979. Starlings are now RSPB Red Status due to their worrying decline; whilst they are still common, they are not anywhere near as common as they used to be.
Feel free to recommend links that have caught your eye.
*Disclaimer: may sometimes contain non-biodiversity-related links.
As I posted yesterday, this weekend is the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch, the world’s largest wildlife-watching event, and one that’s been running for 36 years. I completed my hour of surveying between 09:04 and 10:04 this morning, and it’s been a bumper year! Armed with a notebook, binoculars, and a cup of coffee, I recorded all the different bird species I observed in the field of view from the tall silver birch to the left across to the patch of brambles on the right (my “garden”, as you can see, encompasses parts of my neighbours’ gardens too).
In 2013 (the first year I did the BGBW at this house) I recorded a disappointing 6 species; in 2014 it was 8 species; this year it’s been a whopping 15 species! They were (in order of first observation, with numbers of birds):
Robin – 1
Collared dove – 3
Chaffinch – 4
Dunnock – 3
Magpie – 1
Blue tit – 4
Coal tit – 1
Lesser redpoll – 4
Blackbird – 4
Greenfinch – 5
Carrion crow – 1
Great tit – 2
Wood pigeon – 2
Goldfinch – 4
Blackcap – 1
Not bad for an urban garden! Did you do the BGBW this weekend? How many species did you count? Was it a higher count than last year?