Tuesday, 25 October 2016

News from the Garden Bird Survey

Greenfinch (Shay Connolly)

You might have noticed that activity around the feeders is stepping up somewhat: colder nights and shortening days mean more and more birds are including the feeders as part of their daily routine, if not survival plan.

The results from last winters Survey have just been published in Wings magazine, ahead of this winter's survey which is still a month away.

Greenfinches are back in the top ten, at ninth, showing a slight recovery, perhaps from the pervasive Trichomonosis disease that hit their numbers over the last decade.
Siskin drops in, end of season. (Shay Connolly)

You will have noticed no doubt that Goldfinches are swelling their ranks, at eighth, occurring in 86% of our gardens. Siskins were welcomed back, after a really poor showing the previous winter, they dropped by at the tail end of the winter, in February 2016, to nearly 60% of gardens.

With all these positive finch stories, no surprise then that the stand out garden predator, the Sparrowhawk, was present and attending the vicinity of the feeders in over 40% of gardens.  This is a very high position for this species and is a good indication of the balancing act that goes on in bird populations and the dynamic relationship between predator and prey.  

Juvenile Sparrowhawk (Shay Connolly)

So, we have a little over a month to get our garden birds primed and ready for this winters survey, I have a couple of  Pied Wagtails, Meadow Pipits and Linnets visiting right now, I hope they are still around when the form filling begins!

Monday, 10 October 2016

Meadow Pipits move in

Meadow Pipit  (c. Shay Connolly)

Autumn migration, inland, never really reaches the dizzy heights of the coast, its headlands and islands. October here opens with a steady stream of Meadow Pipits, moving over recently stubbled fields, in small groups, their thin 'tseep- tseep' calls and weak flight as subtle as their brown plumage: Not exactly a straight swap over the same fields for departing Swallows, a bit subtle themselves this year, with no obvious pre-migration gatherings.

 However the pipits are both long and short distance migrants to us. These birds may be just moving to lower altitude for the winter,from higher ground in county Wicklow, like the Linnet flock which is also building.  

Meadow Pipit (c. Liam Kane)
With counts of over 1,000 a day recorded at migration stations such as Cape Clear, the movement there is thought to be more long distance, birds migrating to us or just passing through from Iceland and Scandinavia, moving as far south as North Africa to spend the winter.

One of my favourite October migrants is the Goldcrest, spotted on the coast or in the home garden, they are often heard calling from cover as they feed incessantly. This bird was spotted sitting up, perky enough on the doormat: most likely it was recovering from a collision with the patio door, it flew off into the sycamores as I approached it, seemingly none the worst for wear. I was happy to put it to flight before a cat discovered it on the ground.   

Goldcrest (c.OOS)