A finch-tastic prelude to the Big Garden Birdwatch

Next weekend is the annual RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch, and I will be taking part as always (my results from 2013, 2014 and 2015 are all on the blog).

Those of you who have read this blog a while know that I always feel the BGBW is mildly cursed, with the interesting stuff disappearing for the day, or showing up five minutes after you finish. 2016 has threatened to be worse than normal as the warmest winter on record means far fewer birds needing the feeders.

But this weekend was a surprise as we had a record goldfinch count of 39 (that’s spread between the feeders and the two nearby trees they queue in), plus Greenfinches and the first Bullfinches of the year.

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Annoyingly the bullfinches (two males and one female) only once dropped into clear view, and having taken half-a-dozen shots of the male, I then realised I’d been playing about with the settings on the camera, leading to six unusable pictures. He, of course, departed as soon as I had corrected my mistake! Fortunately the female, an under-rated ‘little brown job’ hung around a little longer.

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The sole shot of a male was distant and obscured by a buddleia.

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To crown this all, we had the first siskins we have seen in the garden for two years. They seemed to have joined with the large flock of Goldfinches and Greenfinches.

Multi-species feeding

Multi-species feeding

There were just the two compared to the large flock we had two years ago, and no Redpolls so far, but fingers crossed this is the start of an influx.

Last time round they were a tame little group, but the male today was skittish. The female however allowed me to approach reasonably close and get a decent shot in the gloom.

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It’s not just the feeders that are busy, and a scattering of suet and mealworms draws Magpies, Wood Pigeons, Collared Doves, and plenty of Starlings.

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Starling prancing

We’ve also still got Robins, House Sparrows, Dunnocks and Blackbirds, plus Wrens, Blue, Coal, Great and Long-tailed Tits. So despite my suggestion it’s been quiet, there are still numerous species around.

I’ll end on a few more pictures from Sunday afternoon.

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A goldfinch on guard

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Male Blackbird

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Male Siskin

Female siskin

Female siskin



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5 Responses to A finch-tastic prelude to the Big Garden Birdwatch

  1. Tony says:

    Goldfinches are doing remarkably well over recent years. So, despite all those horrid tales of decline, the RSPB and the BTO for that matter would do well to investigate what has caused this success. As ever, the British Trust for Ornithology are actually ahead of the game as they are asking people to submit details about Goldfinches feeding habits, see below for the link.


    *Please do have a look around their pages as there are a great many other surveys we can all attribute to, time willing of course.

    Stick at it, David and take care.

    Tony Powell and naturestimeline

    • David says:

      Yes, I have submitted results to the BTO survey. They much prefer sunflower hearts to anything else here.
      I’ve been meaning to use the blog to encourage others, so this is a timely reminder, thanks.

      • Tony says:

        We only feed Sunflower hearts at home aside from the odd fatball and kitchen scraps. I’m pretty sure we don’t lack any species because of this either. Having said that, grated cheese and of course mealworms (yes, forgot we use them too) are popular with a great many species too. Well done for doing what you’re doing.

  2. Pingback: Big Garden Birdwatch – 2016 results – A bumper bird bonanza! | Why watch wildlife?

  3. Pingback: Big Garden Birdwatch 2016 – National results and a few thoughts | Why watch wildlife?

I welcome thoughts, comments and questions, so please feel free to share anything at all. Thanks, David

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