Winter Bird Survey

Last weekend saw my final survey visit for the new BTO English Winter Bird Survey. This survey covers my regular Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) km square just outside Broadway, Worcestershire. Due to the recent warm weather it was more like an early Breeding Bird Survey, with resident birds like song thrush, robin, wren, chaffinch, linnet and skylarks singing everywhere. There were some winter redwings still around and a fly-over siskin, but due to the lack of leaves I saw more of the resident birds than I often do when I visit in April. Bullfinch, marsh tit and treecreeper are some of the less common residents on this square that were showing well. Lesser-spotted Woodpeckers are easiest seen at this time of year, but one seen calling and drumming on a dead tree is a rare sighting here or in indeed most other places in UK.

I liked doing the survey on my regular square and seeing different birds there, but doing the expected 4 visits was a problem as short winter days make it hard to do the survey around other weekend activities, especially in the pre-Christmas period. As it was I only managed the two visits in December and February, but I do think this was enough to accurately survey the wintering bird population on the site.

One year of BTO Garden Birdwatch

It's the anniversary of my starting the BTO Garden Birdwatch, logging all the birds in the garden over the course of a year. As well as birds I’ve recorded butterflies, mammals & amphibians. These graphics are off the BTO site, showing the frequency of the most common birds that actually use the garden (pure fly-overs are not counted).

Surprisingly out of the 47 bird species I recorded during the year, only four were seen absolutely every week: Woodpigeon, Blue Tit, Goldfinch & House Sparrow. The rest of the top 10 were Robin which only missed one week (reporting rate = 98%), Blackbird with reporting rate of 96%, Collared Dove, Jackdaw and Great Tit all on 92%, then quite a big drop to Wren at 75%. Most of these species disappeared during late Summer / early Autumn, when the species count was at it’s lowest.

At the other end of the scale six birds only showed once: Fieldfare during winter snows, Whitethroat, Siskin & Hawfinch during Spring migration and Grey Wagtail & Lesser Whitethroat also migrants during the late summer.

A morning of birds

A beautiful sunny, still and cool morning, starting to feel even a bit autumnal.  There were lots of birds around, especially in the neighbours' large birch trees at the foot of the garden.  Family groups of blue tits, great tits, goldfinches, greenfinches, blackbirds and house sparrows were more apparent than usual.  A singing willow warbler and a lesser whitethoat (new for the garden and species #313 for the microEden list) were not locals. They are migrant warblers slowly moving south & west, feeding up for the long migration to Africa as they go.  Families of swallows, house martins and swifts were overhead - the swifts will be gone any day now, heading South.  By 10.00 am the birds are almost silent - you'd never know they were there.

It seems a good time to mention the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) and their Garden Birdwatch survey that collects data - weekly maximum counts - of the bird species in your garden.  You can also optionally record other wildlife like mammals, butterflies, etc.  This is great as everyone's records build up a very representative dataset of changes in bird populations in gardens across the UK.  The website it interesting.  Consider signing up - It's not too much of a commitment (



The MicroEden backyard on an August morning

The MicroEden backyard on an August morning

BTO Breeding Bird Survey

I've just done my second visit to my BBS square on the Gloucestershire / Worcestershire border near Broadway. This British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) survey counts breeding birds, with two visits in April and June to log the birds encountered along two transects running through an assigned 1 km square.  The BBS itself is great to be part of: it's been running annually since 1994 and the data enables a detailed analysis of population trends for over 100 UK breeding birds.  This provides massively valuable input to discussions about the impact of changing climate and land-use on the nation's wildlife for the Government and organisations like RSPB.  I'm lucky with my square that it's very scenic and has plenty of wildlife, so as well as feeling like a worthy citizen I get to enjoy some good birding.