Essex birds come in from the cold

No.:  2010-12-58
December 2010

Latest results from the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) Garden BirdWatch survey show that birds are flocking into Essex gardens. During the recent snowy weather almost a quarter of Essex gardens had a Green Woodpecker visit and nearly half supported a Jay – both well above the national average.

Green Woodpecker by John Flowerday 

Almost a quarter of Essex gardens had
a Green Woodpecker visit

 When cold weather arrives, birds, including many unusual visitors, pour into gardens, benefitting from food provided by householders and urban temperatures elevated by heat pollution. During the past four weeks an amazing 13% of Essex householders who participate in the BTO’s Garden BirdWatch saw a Grey Heron, compared with just 5% in the rest of Britain and Ireland. With lakes and ponds freezing over in the wider countryside many herons appear to have turned to Essex garden ponds for an easy meal. One Essex householder even spotted a Snipe – a long-billed wading bird that is a rare garden visitor.

The most frequently seen species during the past four weeks have been Blackbird, Blue Tit and Robin, each occupying over 95% of Essex gardens. Starling, one of the most glamorous garden species with its bright, iridescent plumage, occupied fewer Essex gardens (85%) but, owing to its large flock sizes, was the most abundant species with an average of nearly 13 individuals per garden. Starlings are a red-list species of conservation concern and so Essex gardens could be an important refuge for these birds. The average number of Starlings per garden in Essex was almost double that found nationally.

The unique garden bird community of Essex has come alive and, as the inclement weather continues, the BTO is encouraging more householders to enjoy the birds in their gardens and to record what they see through the BTO Garden BirdWatch. The scheme has run every week since 1995 and is the largest year-round survey of garden birds in the world, with over 350 participants in Essex alone.

Dr Tim Harrison, BTO Garden BirdWatch, commented: “Essex householders can be amazed at the birds that they have in their gardens. During the past four weeks, the county’s gardens have held 58 species including garden rarities such as Skylark and Linnet. Other species have been observed in unusually high numbers including Fieldfare, Collared Dove and the tiny Goldcrest.”

He added, “Many people watch birds in their gardens and BTO Garden BirdWatch enables Essex householders to record what they see and, in the process, make a real scientific contribution. Whether you watch the birds for 10 minutes or 10 hours per week you can still get involved.”

To make your Essex garden count or for a free enquiry pack please telephone 01842 750050 and ask for the Garden BirdWatch team, email gbw [at] bto.org or write to GBW, BTO, The Nunnery, Thetford, Norfolk, IP24 2PU.

Notes for Editors

1. Top 20 garden birds in Essex: the past four weeks

 
Top 20
Essex
% gardens occupied
Top 20
Rest of Britain and Ireland
% gardens occupied
1
Blackbird
98.1
Blue Tit
98.1
2
Blue Tit
96.2
Robin
97.6
3
Robin
96.2
Blackbird
96.8
4
Collared Dove
94.3
Great Tit
93.8
5
Woodpigeon
92.5
Dunnock
90.7
6
Great Tit
90.6
Chaffinch
87.4
7
Dunnock
88.7
Woodpigeon
84.3
8
Starling
84.9
Coal Tit
81.0
9
House Sparrow
83.0
Goldfinch
74.4
10
Chaffinch
79.2
Magpie
73.4
11
Goldfinch
77.4
Collared Dove
72.3
12
Magpie
71.7
House Sparrow
70.1
13
Greenfinch
66.0
Starling
66.7
14
Jay
47.2
Greenfinch
65.7
15
Great Spotted Woodpecker
45.3
Wren
52.8
16
Coal Tit
43.4
Long-tailed Tit
48.8
17
Long-tailed Tit
41.5
Great Spotted Woodpecker
44.8
18
Pied/White Wagtail
37.7
Carrion Crow
40.4
19
Wren
35.8
Jackdaw
37.5
20
Jackdaw
26.4
Song Thrush
31.1


 
  1. The BTO is the UK’s leading bird research organisation. Over thirty thousand birdwatchers contribute to the BTO’s surveys. They collect information that forms the basis of conservation action in the UK. The BTO maintains a staff of 100 at its offices in Norfolk and Stirling, who analyse and publicise the results of project work. The BTO’s investigations are funded by government, industry and conservation organisations.
  2. The BTO Garden BirdWatch is the only nationwide survey of garden birds to run weekly throughout the year, providing important information on how birds use gardens, and how this use changes over time. Currently, some 15,000 people take part in the project nationally, with some 350 in Essex. The project is funded by participants’ contributions and is the largest year-round survey of garden birds in the world. For more information see www.bto.org/gbw

Contact information 

Tim Harrison (BTO Garden BirdWatch Development Officer)
Office: 01842 750050 (9am to 5.30pm)
Email: gbw [at] bto.org

Paul Stancliffe (BTO Press Officer)
Office: 01842 750050 (9am to 5.30pm)
Mobile: 07585 440910 (anytime)
Email: press [at] bto.org

Images are available for use alongside this News Release
Please contact images [at] bto.org quoting reference 2010-12-58

The BTO has an ISDN line available for radio interviews
Please contact us to book an interview Office: 01842 750050