Thursday, 27 March 2014

Not a Big Garden Birdwatch for Blackbirds

Earlier this year almost half a million people spent an hour looking out of their windows with one aim – to record the birds they saw as part of the RSPB’s Big Garden Bird Watch.

This annual survey, which has been running since 1979, provides a snap shot into the fortunes of the UK’s garden visitors and provides an easy and fun introduction to the world of bird surveys. Not to mention of course an excellent excuse to watch birds for an hour with a bacon sandwich and a cup of tea!

At the UK level it was all change in the top ten and you can find the results here. However, we are really interested in blackbirds here, and our species of choice has dropped from second to fourth position across the UK. Within Wales, despite holding onto 5th position, the average number of birds seen in Welsh gardens fell from 3 in 2013, to 2.1 in 2014.

Within Cardiff the Blackbird faired even worse! Although it was the fourth most counted species, the average Cardiff Garden held a meagre average of 1.8 Blackbirds in 2014!

This drop in fortunes could be explained by low productivity the species experienced in the hot dry summer of 2013, which was down 12% compared to the five year average according to the BTO's figures.

Big Garden Birdwatch takes places on the last January of each year, so put the date in your diary for 2015!

Monday, 3 March 2014

Fortunes of Fieldwork

A sunny St David's Day jaunt around the study site as part of the BTO's Winter Thrushes Survey provided the perfect opportunity not only to see some winter thrushes but also to re-sight some of our birds. Both turned out to be a bit of a success; not only did we see all the species of thrush that make their UK the home in the winter, including over 180 redwing, but we also saw six our birds! 

One was Orange over Yellow (O/Y); one of the birds ringed under our new marking system. O/Y hasn't moved far since we marked him but it was good to see him. 

AB is a bird we are always pleased to see as he was the first bird marked by the project when it started in April 2012. He was at least two calendar years old then, making him at least four years old now.
Our man AB - the first bird ringed for the Cardiff Blackbird
Project is still going strong three years 
As for the others:
AH - put in another appearance this year
BT - only the second time we have seen this bird since he was ringed in 2012
FH - this was the first time he has been seen since 2012

As we have now entered out RAS period these six birds will count towards are breeding season survival analysis. 

Its safe to say that we saw a good number of blackbirds on our Winter Thrushes Survey, 36 in total. Each of the yellow dots on the image below represents a blackbird registration but a dot might be more than one bird. Take the four western most dots which combined represent 10 birds! We've seen this number or more there on a number of occasions. 

Each yellow dot represents a blackbird sighting, and might represent 1-5 birds.
So it seemed a safe bet to head there on Sunday morning for a bit of an impromptu catching session in the hope of adding more birds to the project. After two hours we packed up having seen only two blackbirds 100m away, and nothing in the nets! The fortunes of fieldwork!

Saturday, 1 March 2014

The First for 2014

We have been taking advantage of some recent respites in the weather and have been out re-sighting blackbirds or at least attempting too!

There are good numbers of blackbirds in the study area with several ringed birds being spotted. But as February draws to a close we have only managed to read four codes so far, all on the same day.

AC - first ringed in 2012 when he was at least two years old
AH - he was also ringed as in 2012 (also at least two years old!)
BD - Another of the class of 2012, BD is now in her 4th calendar year
FS - he was at least 2 years old when caught in February last year

Hopefully as the weather improves and evenings become lighter we'll get more!