In Milton Keynes, the local group for members of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) is the North Bucks branch. Each Autumn and Winter, from the beginning of November to the end of March, this group partakes in a survey of birds feeding in their gardens, to build up data of long term trends and study species movements due to local weather and global climate change.
Regular readers will recall (pay attention, I did say there would be questions later) that I alluded to this in a previous post, and, for me personally, it does offer a welcome focus of attention through the lean months when there are no UK dragonflies on the wing.
Whilst we are very thorough in completing the survey and sending off our records, we do not tend to keep copies, so do not have accurate data for anywhere we have lived, or even Tense Towers. This is not a problem in itself, though the last week has highlighted that perhaps we should be more archival with our records.
Here at Tense Towers, we have a small back garden, perhaps 12m wide by 7m deep, and a tapering triangle of grass at the front of the house. There are a few tall trees, a small pond, bushes, borders and lawn, but like many town gardens, it is mainly hemmed in by panel fences shared with our neighbours. Over the years that we have participated in the survey, I would reckon that we average about 16 or 17 species a week, mainly consisting of the usual suspects with the odd unexpected visitor. The recent spell of prolonged cold weather, characterised by weeks of sub-zero temperatures and several inches of snow, has certainly proved the worth of both feeding the birds and recording their visits. During the big freeze, it has been difficult for wild birds to find sufficient food to survive the cold. This is evidenced by the presence of greater numbers of common species visiting the garden for food, but also by visits from birds that would not normally be seen this close to human activity.
I commented earlier in the week that Our Lass had seen a Moorhen visiting the garden for the first time. Other species too, were bravely risking contact with humans in their search for enough to eat. When we added up the number of species for the past 7 days, it was a whopping 29, far in excess of our average, even allowing for the Christmas week to be generally good as there will be more free time and more pairs of eyes watching out of the window.
In fact, if just one solitary bloody Magpie had showed up as usual, we'd have broken the 30 barrier. You just can't rely on 'em, can you?
For the record, our garden list for 20/12/10 - 26/12/10 was:
Great Spotted Woodpecker
Pied Wagtail (Stumpy!)
Robin (maximum of 4, eek!)
Thankfully, a thaw seems to have begun at last, but all our berry bushes are stripped bare, so I do not know what will happen if, as is often the case in February, we have another period of very cold weather.