Monday, 21 January 2013

RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch at St Ives, Bingley - Sunday 27th January

Thanks to everyone who turned up on Sunday 27th January to help out with the Big Garden Birdwatch survey. It is a really important survey, which helps the RSPB understand how well the birds are doing and gives us a ‘snapshot’ of bird numbers across the UK.

 Team talk

The snow had completely disappeared by the time we arrived at St Ives on Sunday morning but it was still a bitterly cold morning in the bird hide! But the excitement of seeing lots of different birds landing on the feeders and on the ground was enough to help take the hardy Otters’ minds off the cold.  The Otters leaders had been out on the Saturday and earlier on Sunday morning, putting out lots of tempting treats on the feeders and the ground for the birds. The birds could choose from peanuts, a variety of seeds, meal worm, fat balls and some of the feeders made at the Otters Christmas event – a real feast!  

And it was worth it. It is difficult to say precisely how many birds we saw because you have to try not to count the same bird over and over again but, in the hour we were there, we saw 14 different species, for a total of about 32 birds. The Otters all came armed with notebooks, pencils, bird identification books and binoculars to help us to be as accurate as possible.

The Nutchatches were the first to take advantage of all the food on offer and many of the Otters will now be expert at recognising this plump little bird with blue-grey feathers on its back, orange breast, and long black pointed bill, as at least four of them were constantly flying in and out to the feeders the whole time we were there. We saw three species of tit  – the smaller greyish Coal Tit, recognisable by the way it flits in, snatches a seed and flies out again, the larger Great Tit, with its distinctive glossy black head, and the familiar Blue Tit with its colourful mix of blue, yellow, white and green. 

 Nuthatch (photo Stephen Lilley)

The stars of the show, however, were the beautiful Jays. We recorded three of these striking birds, the most colourful members of the crow family. Normally they are quite difficult to see and it is usually their screaming call, which lets you know there is one about. But on Sunday, they put on a real show for us, as they couldn’t get enough of the peanuts that had been scattered all over the ground for their enjoyment! 

Jay (photo Stephen Lilley)

We saw five Blackbirds – including males and females and all the Otters should now be able to explain the difference! Right at the end of the hour, Nick spotted a Treecreeper and no prizes for guessing what it was doing – yes you’ve got it – it was creeping up a tree, looking for insects. This behaviour and its long curved bill make the Treecreeper easy to recognise once you’ve spotted it!

The list of birds

Other visitors to the hide area that morning were Robins, Chaffinch, Magpie, Dunnock, Wren and Song Thrush. The full list of birds recorded by the Airedale Otters is below - click on a link to learn more about the bird:
The total of 14 species was not as high as the number of species we identified in our bird race last spring, as it was too early in the year for the summer visitors.  But all in all, a good day’s work for a cold January day, so well done Otters! The RSPB will publish the Big Garden Birdwatch results later in the year.