Big Garden Birdwatch 2016 – National results and a few thoughts

Yesterday saw a little spike in my blog stats as a whole bunch of people looked at my results for the Big Garden Birdwatch 2016. Apologies to those people as they were obviously searching for detail and analysis from the National results, which came out yesterday.

The results

There were 8.3 million birds recorded overall, a drop of around 300,000 from 2015. We’ll come onto reasons for that in a minute. The top ten were:

  1. House Sparrow
  2. Starling
  3. Blue Tit
  4. Blackbird
  5. Woodpigeon
  6. Goldfinch
  7. Chaffinch
  8. Great Tit
  9. Robin
  10. Long-tailed Tit

That’s largely unchanged from last year. Blackbird and Blue Tit have switched places, Goldfinch is up from 9th relegating Chaffinch to 7th and Robin to 9th. Collared Doves have dropped out by one place, replaced by Long-tailed Tits up from 13th.

Here in North Yorkshire the results were a pretty good mirror for the National perspective:

  1. House Sparrow
  2. Blackbird
  3. Blue Tit
  4. Starling
  5. Woodpigeon
  6. Chaffinch
  7. Goldfinch
  8. Great Tit
  9. Long-tailed Tit
  10. Robin

Across the UK Siskins and Goldcrests were big winners, climbing 10 and 13 places respectively. The Siskins had only just arrived the week before in our garden, but they are still here daily over two months later and showing little sign of migrating anywhere North or East of us.

What changed?

So what brought on the changes? Mainly it’s a result of a mild winter, currently looking to be a full two degrees above the December-February average.

Small birds like Long-tailed Tits have a higher survival rate when the weather is milder, meaning more are around and looking for food. There is a longer-term trend too, with tits and finches making more use of our increasing garden feeding.

At the same time, the milder conditions probably led to that slight overall drop in numbers. Mild weather means more wild food sources are available, which means fewer birds making use of garden feeders. That will explain the drop in numbers for larger birds like doves, crows, magpies, pigeons, and blackbirds, as well as birds like wrens and robins that would have benefited from late-lasting insect food sources.

It’s a good job there has been a milder winter, as the wet spring of 2015 meant more nest failures according to the BTO. But the higher survival rate should mean more nests this spring and the chance of a bountiful year going into BGBW 2017.

Outside of Big Garden Birdwatch there are other interesting signs of milder weather. I had my first bee-fly a full month earlier than last year. At the same time, I’ve only yesterday heard my first Chiffchaff, over two weeks later than 2015.

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This entry was posted in Big Garden Birdwatch, Birds, Ethology, Phenology and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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

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