Sunday 28th January was my second ‘Big Garden Birdwatch’ in Tayport Community Garden and we had a great time making bird cakes and watching the garden for an hour, not to mention the lovely coffee and cake! Find the bird and human cake recipes, and the full list of birds we spotted, at the bottom of this page.
It was really helpful to have so many people participating as many pairs of eyes were really important for spotting the flock of goldfinches visiting the large trees by the stream and also for spotting the big group of starlings that came to join us. It was lovely to see so many starlings. Only 15% of young starlings survive their fist year and the numbers of starlings in Britain have fallen by 66% since the 1970’s so starlings are ‘red listed’ as birds of high conservation concern. In the summer they mainly eat worms and insect larvae but they love to eat fat balls and a variety of seeds in the winter so the fat balls made will be perfect starling food.
We saw 3 green finches this year which was really heartening. In the past 2 years Greenfinches and some other members of the finch family have been hit hard by a disease called Trichomonosis. This is a parasite-induced disease which prevents the birds from feeding properly. If you see a finch struggling to feed at your feeders and looking fluffed up and ill, it is important to clean and disinfect your feeders and water dish. If there are more than one bird showing signs of illness the advice is to stop feeding the birds for a time to disperse the birds and prevent the disease passing between birds. More information can be found here.
Two robins were spotted during our birdwatch hour and I’m sure many of you have seen robins when you have been enjoying the garden. Robins are very general feeders eating a mixture of insects and seeds. They love fat balls too but, like the starlings, they are ground feeders so they prefer their food on a bird table rather than hanging.
Did you know that the robins you see in the summer may not be the same birds as those you see in winter? Some robins migrate here from Scandinavia in the autumn and return in the spring whilst others (mainly females) travel from the south of Britain to Spain and France for the winter.
At the end of our watch we enjoyed watching a flock of curlews flying overhead. We couldn’t include these in our bird count because they didn’t land in the garden but seeing them was a real treat. Curlews are coastal birds often seen feeding in the mud at low tide on the shoreline around Tayport. They have long curved beaks used for probing deep into mud and feeling for shellfish and shrimps. In the winter they can be seen in flocks feeding in the fields around the B945 heading out of Tayport. They feed on worms and invertebrates in the soil so they like newly ploughed fields but can also be seen regularly on the Madras playing fields as you head into St Andrews.
The Big Garden Birdwatch gives us a snapshot of the birds in our area but when you add up all of those snapshots taken in the same weekend across the UK that gives us a really good insight as to what is happening with our garden birds. 500,000 people took part this year and the national results will be available on the RSPB website in March.
In all we saw a good range of birds showing that the Community Garden provides a broad range of habitats. Look out for the new nest boxes that are going up this year too, they will encourage even more birds into the garden.