Stand up and be counted – this hooded crow is a regular visitor to my garden.

I’ve been taking part in the Birdwatch Ireland Garden Bird survey which runs until next month. I’ve created a spreadsheet to record the numbers every week, and I’ll send all the data off once the survey finishes. Providing food and cover is the key to attracting birds. I have 2 feeding stations in my garden, and I also put food on the lawn and also the (flat) roof of the studio, from which I can easily observe from my home office which is upstairs at the back of my home. The graph above, from my list 2 weeks ago, shows the variety of birdlife that visit the garden.

Feeding station #2. The wire keeps out the larger birds, the roof keeps the food dry but lets in the light, and there is a shelf to place a camera.

The feeding stations are close to the trees and shrubs of my back garden which, along with large clumps of bushes in the neighbouring gardens, provide sufficient cover for the smaller birds. Our street is located betwwen the hospital and NUIG, both of which provide plenty of environments for the larger birds, which drop in for a visit.

It’s no surprise that goldfinches top the charts – they swarm the feeders and the lawn, and while 26 was the largest number that descended upon the lawn at one time, there are usually between seven and ten at all times in the garden. The chaffinches are next – they have ceded the feeders to the goldfinches and mainly feed from underneath the feeders or on the lawn.

Feeding station #1, with Goldfinches, Siskin and Coal Tit.

While the pigeons and collared doves are more recent arrivals (basically since I started leaving out food), the starlings and blackbirds were born here – the starlings under the roof eave and the blackbirds in a large clump of ivy on the back wall. Though I only counted 3 blackbirds that week, there are five in total that ‘occupy’ the garden. As it happened, the blackbird nest last year successfully fledged 4 youngsters, but I’m not sure they are the same ones. There are a pair of hooded crows that have been visiting the garden since last summer  but I only counted on this week (I have since counted both of them together so they are still alive). Similarly, the Coal, Great and Blue Tits are part of pairs of regular visitors, but during that week, I only observed one of them in the garden at a time. The robin is a local too, but the siskin and blackcaps are recent visitors. The redpoll is an occasional visitor only. I was surprised at the lack of sparrows, wagtails and dunnocks. Subsequently, they have all shown up but the sparrow numbers are low (my mother has a feeding station in Co. Westmeath and she’s noticed a lack of sparrows too. Although the occasional appearance of a sparrowhawk there might also explain their absence).

Other occasional visitors included a  goldcrest (that popped up at a feeder just as I was changing it), a greenfinch and a rook that turns up when I chuck large pieces of food onto the flat roof. Unfortunately, it looks like a couple of the chaffinches (and at least one goldfinch) have been afflicted with Trichomoniasis. I have two sets of feeders which I rotate (using one set while the other gets a bleach wash), but I may have to remove the feeders and just scatter food on the lawn instead. As it happens, the finches are getting very little access to the feeders thanks to the aggressive behaviour of the male blackcap – more of that anon.