Birdwatch Ireland Garden Bird Survey Update

House sparrow

It’s 5 weeks into the new year, and the number of bird sightings has settled into a fairly consistent pattern (see full table at bottom of page).There are the daily vistors – like the goldfinches, chaffinches and Tits (Blue/Coal and Great respectively), the regulars – the siskins, redpolls, etc. and the occasional visitors, such as the pied wagtail, goldcrests and wren. In some cases,  my stats just reflect my method of counting – most of the week, I just note what I can see from my home office (aka an upstairs bedroom overlooking the back garden). As a result, I completely missed the fact that the dunnocks were in the garden every day until I put out a trailcam. Since they usually stay in cover, I just didn’t see them. Similarly with the wren – it doesn’t come up the garden much som I’m probably missing most of it’s activity. Wrens have bred every year in the environs of the house, and one morning last summer, 4 recently-fledged young wrens came up to the back door (which is glass) and peered in while I was having breakfast.

A month ago, the flock of goldfinches visiting the garden was increasing day by day, and one day, I counted 26 of them (most of them were feeding as a group on the back lawn – where I had thrown some food). Similarly, the number of chaffinches was increasing. The arrival of the pair of blackcaps altered the dynamic of the garden – for the small birds anyway. During late January, the blackcaps – in particular the male – aggressively guarded the feeding stations, preventing other birds from feeding. For about a week, hardly any food had been consumed from any of the feeders, so there were around 40 small birds that were no longer able to access food. However, in the last few days, the blackcaps’ control of the feeders has weakened dramatically, and as a result, the feeders need more frequent replenishment. I’m not sure what exactly has altered the influence of the blackcaps. It might be that the blackcaps tries to extend their range of controlinto neighbouring gardens – they were missing from the garden for hours at a time during the week. When it returned, it made less effort to chase off the goldfinches – perhaps it was just short of energy. The blackcap male has also encountered more resistance – the resident robin chased it off when the blackcap challenged it. Today, I witnesses some of the goldfinches defend themselves successfully against blackcap attachs, and a couple of them chased off the blackcap when it approaches a feeding station.

This week, the number of bird sightings increased – mainly due to a flock of house sparrows  – they had been around before Xmas, but didn’t appear for much of January. I plan to disperse the feeders further around the garden during February, which should further frustrate the blackcaps efforts to guard the feeders. My main feeding station successfully protects the feeders from the elements and larger birds. Unfortunately, since the feeding station is effectively a large wire cage, the blackcaps’ agressive behaviour has discourage many of the birds from entering the station (since they can’t escape quickly from the station).

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