Male Bullfinch: (c. Oran O’Sullivan)

The Garden Bird Survey (GBS) has been running in its current format since winter 1994/1995 and it was business as usual for the top five species, Robin, Blackbird, Blue Tit, Chaffinch and Great Tit. With no changes at the top, there were some notable falls amongst the finches.  Possibly as a result of a mild winter in 2015/16, finch numbers were generally down, though Chaffinches maintained their lofty position.  Bucking the trend was the Bullfinch, up five places in the rankings to 21st and occurring in 41% of gardens.  On somewhat of a nosedive was the Greenfinch, down  six places at 15th and  occurring in 70% of gardens.  Apart from actual occurrence, they are  no longer as abundant in this garden: large flocks seem to be a thing of the past.  Their demise is not really related to the weather on offer; We know they have suffered directly as a result of the spread of the disease Trichomonosis ( see for up to date and excellent coverage of all the nasties that can affect garden wildlife).

  In a colder winter you would expect flocking species like the finches to move from the wider countryside into gardens for refuge, and the opposite to occur in the mild version of 2015/16.  As Brian Burke of BirdWatch Ireland said: “Though the reduced numbers of finches in gardens caused some disappointment last winter, it’s nothing to be concerned about!”

Greenfinches numbers continue to drop.  (c. Oran O’Sullivan)

Although the most commonly occurring bird of prey continues to be the Sparrowhawk, in 25th position, the one to watch is the Buzzard, ranked 33rd and occurring in a respectable 12% of gardens.  The 13 week survey gets underway again on the 4th December, and will no doubt prove to be as popular as ever: last year  data from 667 gardens was submitted, surely the longest and most valuable citizen science database in the country?

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