Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Garden Watch

Bad weather causes decline in robin numbers

That was a headline in one of the papers a month ago, referring to a BTO report on summer breeding, and the lack of migrant arrivals. The intervening few weeks have seen a large arrival of robins (as well as goldcrests) on the easterly winds, so that one seems to be singing or calling from every bush and tree.
The headline could also refer to a poor start to the Great October Bird Count (Kingsdown version) as strong winds and squally showers reduced the number of birds seen to a miserable single figures.

While our colonial cousins are adding hummingbirds to their lists, my list has hardly started....but there's still a month to go.

An interesting relevant link is to a BTO webpage, which shows the results by county of Garden Birdwatches in 2006 - although for Kent there is a surprisingly large number of Willow Tit sightings.

Returning to the newspaper article about robin et al, mention is made of lower insect numbers, which had not struck me before - it was interesting to read the St Margarets blog comment that there is a much lower 'strike-rate' of bugs on windscreens at night, compared with past years.

The robin could become a rare sight this winter due to a decline in numbers caused by bad weather. The British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) has recorded a drop in the number of robins this year due to a poor breeding season.
The usual influx of robins from the continent has also failed to materialise because of adverse weather conditions. BirdTrack, the collaborative online bird recording scheme developed by the BTO and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), shows sightings are down by 8 per cent on last year.
There are also fears birds will go hungry this autumn and winter after experts warned insect numbers are down because of the wet weather. Mark Grantham, population biologist at the British Trust for Ornithology, said the wet spring breeding season was responsible or the lack of native robins, while the corerct winds had not yet brought songbirds from the continent. "We should be seeing a lot of song thrushes and robins coming into the country at this time of year but we have not yet," he said.

"If you do not get a nice long easterly wind then birds are not going to move, they are going to stay where they are in Scandinavia or the near continent."
Other small birds that should come across in the early migration are songthrush, fieldfare, goldcrest and redwing.
Mr Grantham said last year was the worst in 25 years of records for birds in Britain and this year does not look like it is going to be much better.
Gemma Rogers, of the RSPB, urged people to start putting out feed early to ensure birds do not suffer from a shortage of insects. "We do know that bird numbers in gardens generally are declining, and if the insect decline continues there is every chance it could have a bad effect on our garden favourites," she said.


NW Nature Nut said...

Awh. I am sorry. We will no doubt have "squally showers" here soon too. Infact, its supposed to start tomorrow. Your robins are so cute! What kind of suet do you use? I just purchased some veggie (palm oil) suet that is manuf. in Kent by Unipeck. Is veggie more commonly used than beef in the UK? It is touted as being more healthy, although it seems counter intuitive.
I did get a nice list of birds this morning. Do you think they like yards better than gardens?
(Tee hee!)
Will you be posting your list, or will you be keeping it secret?

Mary said...

Looks like a good start to me! It's going to be fun looking at your list, because it will be so different!

Warren Baker said...

Hey steve,
My experience of Robins this year is totally the opposite of the report! As it is also for many common species on my patch. I know locally things differ, but it's been a good year here.

PS Have you noticed how the price of sunflower hearts have gone through the roof. If people can't afford birdfood, it will spell disaster!

NW Nature Nut said...

What do you pay for sunflower chips? (Conversion please.) We pay $40 for 20# of very clean pretty stuff. It has gone through the roof here too. 40# of black oil sunflower is $25-30. Your list is growing!

Warren Baker said...

I pay £90 for 50kg now. last year it was £66. I think thats about 2 stone in wieght.

Kingsdowner said...

Belated answer to you comment Warren, there's a mailorder supplier in Sittingbourne called Birdfoodexpress with these prices:

Premium Quality Sunflower Hearts 1kg Pack £3.69

Premium Quality Sunflower Hearts 5kg Mega Value Pack £14.09

So, yes they are expensive now!