RSPB – Big Garden Bird Watch 2019

Well as promised my results from the above survey. For those unfamiliar with this event, the RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) holds an annual survey where everyone is encouraged to count the birds in their garden, park or playground over a three day period. All that’s asked is that those who take part, watch and count the various species of bird that land or feed in their chosen area for the period of an hour each day. It’s easy and fun and actually its a great way to learn about birds and wildlife in general.

I personally like to note both male and female of various species if possible (although this isn’t necessary) so I get a good idea of who is who at the feeders. It’s fun to watch the interaction  between species, the hierarchy within flocks, the power play and if lucky the predators. With their sudden appearance it’s interesting to watch how all the birds  behave as a result.

Here we go then: Big Garden Bird Watch was held over three days from 26th January 2019. I watch the birds in my garden on Skye every day – when I’m eating my breakfast and lunch – from the breakfast room of my B&B . Although there are also feeders located in the back garden these, located in the hedge, are more sheltered and easier for the birds to hide when a predator appears.

First the species where there is no recognisable difference between male and female: Starling – a flock of 20, Goldfinch – 6, Robin – 3 – generally very territorial, both males and females will share territory at this time of the year when food is scarce and before the breeding season , Coal Tit – 3, Great Tit – 2, Blue Tit – 2, Dunnock – 3 and Hooded Crow – 2 (there were three last year but one was killed on the road).

Next come the rest of the winter crowd: Blackbird – 1M, 1F a lot less than last year when there were several immature males in the group, Chaffinch – 14M, 12F (always a large flock), Siskin – 2M, 1F (mostly these birds fly further south where food is more plentiful), House Sparrow – 6M, 5F and best of all Sparrowhawk  – 1M, 1F.

My favourite photo’s,  of all I took during the survey, are of the female Sparrowhawk. There was a moment in time when both her and her mate were on the small hill behind the garden but visibility was poor, obstructed partially by a tree,  so no photo sadly!

During the year I have also seen scat from a Pine Marten behind the bins in the back garden (my neighbour has actually seen this beautiful creature in her garden), Rabbit footprints (all over the garden) and Common Toads (in the compost heap)  – which are also added to the survey. All in all it wasn’t bad, not as good in numbers or variety of species (last year there were Greenfinches here that stayed after the summer, but each year is different and so worth doing.

Moreover, in May last year there was a serious forest fire in the glen so a large part of the habitat of these birds has been wiped out, which would explain the slight downturn in numbers and varieties of species this winter.

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