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01/27/2011 Archived Entry: "Garden birds"
When it is cold and wintry outside Rhoda and I love to sit in our nice warm conservatory and watch the birds that come into the garden. We get such pleasure observing their antics on our feeders. Blue tits and greenfinches are skilled acrobats but the poor blackbirds and robins look on in dismay as they canít cling onto the feeders. However all is not lost as the tree sparrows are fussy eaters and throw out all the wheat seeds. It falls like confetti onto the garden below and Iíve put down a large tray to catch the seeds, so now the blackbirds and robins hop onto it to have their fill. We also get collared doves, wood pigeons and a handsome cock pheasant feeding from the tray.
Now and again we see predators such as sparrowhawks and buzzards flying over and thereís a cat that likes to prowl stealthily around in the hope of catching something offguard. A survey in 2008 found that tree sparrows, skylarks, corn buntings and yellowhammers have halved in number since 1970, while buzzard, sparrowhawk, carrion crow and magpie numbers greatly increased. This begs the question Ė if some of our birds are in decline, who or what is to blame?
There has been a campaign to reverse the decline in songbirds and to this end crows and magpies are to be trapped and killed in a trial cull this spring. The RSPB is against this action and fiercely defends the reputation of the avian predators. It suggests that intensive farming which robs birds of habitat and food sources may be responsible for the decline in songbirds.
Whichever side you are on, maybe you would be interested in the Big Garden Birdwatch to see just what birds you have around you. This weekend 29/30 January the RSPB is inviting everyone to take part in a bird count. All you have to do is spend an hour over the weekend counting all the birds that come into your garden. If you donít have a garden, you could do it in a nearby park. Itís not a scientific survey but does help to identify the species that are increasing and which are falling in number.
So on that Sunday weíll be sitting in our conservatory counting our feathered friends. Incidentally, we have lots of tree sparrows in our garden, so whatever might be happening elsewhere, they donít appear to have declined in numbers on our patch. Is that because weíve been feeding them?
To take part in the Big Garden Birdwatch, go to the RSPB website.