Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Get some help with Song Thrush and Mistle Thrush id

With the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch just around the corner, now is a great time to brush up on your identification skills. If you want to refine your Song Thrush/Mistle Thrush skills then two new things may be of particular interest. The first is a new factsheet, produced by the BTO Garden BirdWatch Team. Download a PDF (low resolution) or request a hard copy from us (gbw@bto.org).

The second is the latest in a line of identification videos to be produced by BTO experts. We've embedded the video here but you can also view it on the BTO's YouTube page.

BTO Abnormal Plumage Survey results revealed

The response to our call for observations of birds showing unusual plumage characteristics has been remarkable. We checked the database this morning and are delighted to say that we have now had 800 online submissions (we've not counted those coming in on paper forms yet). These have come from all corners of the country and refer to a real mix of species.

Leucistic Robin by Donna McGhee

Such has been the level of interest in the survey that we thought it would be interesting to share our preliminary results with you. You can find out more on our GBW web pages. If you have seen a bird in your garden showing unusual plumage characteristics then we would welcome your involvement in our simple survey, which can be accessed here.

The leucistic Robin shown here is one of a number of fascinating images sent in by participants. You can view other images in our survey gallery.

Friday, 13 January 2012

Unseasonal activity

We always receive a few reports over the late winter period of unseasonal nesting attempts, so it is perhaps a little surprising that we have not had more reported to us this year, especially given the very mild conditions.

From November through until now we have had reports of both Woodpigeon and Collared Dove on either eggs or young (both species can breed throughout the year), together with Moorhen (Birmingham) and Mallard (Gloucestershire) with young, and Tawny Owl on eggs (Grampian).

Robin carrying nest material - 12.01.2012 by Paul Baylis

We have also had reports other various species prospecting for nests or even building. These include Magpie and Jackdaw carrying material to nest sites, Great Tit taking material into a nest box and a Robin (pictured) in the early stages of building (Robin nests have a foundation of dead leaves, with moss, dried grass and a few dead leaves added to make a simple cup, which is then lined with finer grasses, plant fibres and rootlets).

Hard times for garden birds?

A recently published consumer questionnaire tackled the question of whether householders might be cutting back on feeding their birds this winter because of the pressure on household budgets. Interestingly, the study found that just one in ten people were cutting back because of the tougher economic conditions.

It seems that, as a nation of animal lovers, we are reluctant to reduce our efforts to help our feathered friends. This is good news for those birds that make use of the food we provide during the tough winter months.

Wren taking mealworms, by John Harding