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The big garden weigh-in

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Paul Deane Paul Deane | 18:37 UK time, Thursday, 31 May 2012

We're sure that many of you have taken part in surveys to count the numbers of birds in your garden, but numbers only give us one picture.

What the BTO (British Trust for Ornithology) is keen to know is just how much bird life our gardens support - a 'biomass score' for each garden.

Mike Toms, BTO Head of Garden Ecology:
"We need a sensible measure by which we can compare gardens of different types and sizes of bird visiting."

Pigeon goldcrest graphic

In terms of 'bird biomass' 80 goldcrests = 1 wood pigeon

Large birds like wood pigeons will consume huge amounts more from your feeders than a house sparrow for instance, so mass is as important as numbers.

From tonight and for the next 5 days you are invited to make a simple count of the birds that use your garden. And this is how you do it...

Step 1: Download the recording form, find a comfortable chair, a pair of binoculars if you need them and a bird identification book

Step 2: Check the clock, and for the next hour keep a close eye on your garden.

Step 3: Record the maximum amount of birds of each species that you see in your garden at any one time during the hour.

Step 4: Submit your results online and see your biomass score straight away.


  • Comment number 1.

    can i over feed my robins live mealworms they visit me in my bedroom

  • Comment number 2.

    re -1 hour bird count survey? should i put out bird feed previous to count? or leave it to nature?
    peter smith , dundee.

  • Comment number 3.

    Where have all the finches gone? Last year I was filling my 6-port sunflower seed feeder every day, this year it's less than once a week. I seldom see goldfinches or greenfinches whilst last year there was a mixed flock of 14/15. I am seeing more blue & great tits plus long-tail tits.

  • Comment number 4.

    Id like a nice pair of binoculars, can you recommend any? looking to spend £100 max. I dont really understand the specs.

  • Comment number 5.

    The dresses are;
    Fox or Red Squirrel

  • Comment number 6.

    I put a feeder in my garden with seeds in it but the birds have not been using it. Is position important, its currently on a tree branch and away from most of the other feeders in my garden which hang over the lawn on the washing line.

  • Comment number 7.

    got many birds in our garden, including squirrels, one mouse, goldfish and frogs, in our small garden pond

    male and female blackbirds, 2 robins, grey tit, blue tits, sparrows, 2 jays, 3 doves, 6 pigeons, chaffinch, magpies, some even come to the window looks like they are asking us to feed them.

  • Comment number 8.

    My garden runs down a hill, through a forested area to a little brook; on the other side of the garden fence there are fields where sheep graze, with marshy pasture closer to the brook, and then a thick line of trees and brush along the brook itself. As you can imagine the area is thick with all sorts of birds, from blue tits to buzzards. However all day today the electricity distribution company has had contractors with chainsaws out, trimming the trees where an electricity line crosses the field close to the stream. Now I know this has to be done regularly to keep the branches well away from the line, but I am surprised and disappointed that it's being done now, when the trees and bushes are full of nesting birds - especially since none of the branches that I can see were close to the line. In other words it doesn't seem to be urgent work, just regular maintenance which I should think could have been done later in the summer or in autumn. I thought it was illegal to disturb nesting birds. Are utilities exempt from the legislation, even in non-emergency circumstances? Does Springwatch have a view on the matter?

  • Comment number 9.

    june 2nd 15:11 robin in my room where can i send the clip

  • Comment number 10.

    Thank goodness spring watch is on now at 8pm instead of 9pm, it used to annoy me terribly when trash like eastenders was on when children are still up but nature programmes that children can actually learn from are on after 9pm.

  • Comment number 11.

    We've had a bird feeder in our garden for quite a few years now, and it seems to be doing very well! We have it in the center of our back lawn, I would recommend this as it makes it easier to view the birds. Lately we have had a white pigeon (not a dove surprisingly) that is very tame, it allows me to walk up to eat and give it seed :)

  • Comment number 12.

    we have baby blue tits in our nestbox but have noticed a sparrow every so often poking its head in are our babies safe?

  • Comment number 13.

    How about following the life-cycle of the cinnabar moth? Where does it pupate, and what do the pupae look like? Another interesting mini-beast to be highlighted is the stiletto fly, especially in its larval state.

  • Comment number 14.

    In response to scriptor1's post on 2nd June, I'd like to add that we have the same here in West Wales. The electricity company send contractors out every year (in spring, oddly enough!) to cut back any trees that are near to the overhead cables. I believe they have a licence to cut at this time of year, bizzarely. I own a smallholding of 5 acres and I won't allow them to cut until after the birds have finished breeding and the young have fledged. This year, I've told them to come back in September (which they were quite happy to do). Perhaps scriptor could have a word with the landowner and suggest to them that they ask the electricity company to cut later, as I've done. Good luck!

  • Comment number 15.

    We have lots of feeders in our garden with a veriety of types of food but what I would like the answer to is:-Two particular feeders we have, one is green and one is copper coloured Why are the birds only feeding from the green one and not the other? they are in different areas of the garden but with the same Premium wild bird seed in them we have swapped them round but the birds know and just go to the one they like they have both been out in the garden for over 12 month, We have even stopped putting the green one out to see if it will attract them to feed on the other but to no avail, can you please answer this perculier behaviour, Also on a lighter note we have a Red neck Parakeet that has been visiting our garden since August last year and wonder if you would like some photo's of him,

    Thank you,

    Kevin and Kay Wells

  • Comment number 16.

    hi my garden count for the hour on sunday from 4-5 was2dunnocks,2bluetits,3collared doveshad a pair with chicks, one found dead?still 2 is a pair the third is on his own, is he still feeding his chicks.2 woodpidgeons,8 ferralls.2 blackbirds 1 baby from last nest chasted off by dad.15 greenfinches.23goldfinches 1 heron gull.8 sparrows i pair breeding here others in for the food,4 chaffinches.14srarlings. 8 jackdaws,2 greattits about 89 or more in an hour birds. we also have frogs newts goldfish in two seperate ponds the third one is being cleaned out.how long do dunnocks take to feed and fledge. 2 nest in the holly. 2 nests in conifer might be sparrows in the holly as well not sure about the sparrows jennie

  • Comment number 17.

    we have done the on the hour bird count i havent heard if you have recieved the count how long does this take the count before this message

  • Comment number 18.

    how many chicks does a dunnock have??. feeding there young bluetits still feeding theres. nice and dry today here.let me know please on tues, when you,r on t.v. jennie

  • Comment number 19.

    I contributed my count, but found it came surprisingly low down in the listings, probably because I had very few large birds, but a lot of small ones. I don't think it is a very clear indicator of the health of a habitat to have a feral pigeon outweigh a coal tit! Why don't they go by species numbers rather than what each bird may weigh?

  • Comment number 20.

    Our blue tits had 10 eggs, of which 9 hatched. The weather was cold and wet, and over the next week one by one the chicks died, until two were left. One morning I played the recording from the nestbox camera, and saw the moment when one of the two last chicks stopped breathing, and then the adult struggled for some minutes to move the body out of the nest. I don't know if it was taken out of the box. The last chick probably did fledge, as we could see it flapping its wings and hopping near the hole, and then it was no longer there. We have not seen it in the garden, but there is plenty of cover in our garden and our neighbours'. I have been hoping the adults would try again, but on Springwatch they said this won't happen.

  • Comment number 21.

    in my very small garden both nest boxes have been colonised by bumble bees. Are they territorial or will they co-exist in a 20ft square garden?

  • Comment number 22.

    hi,first of all springwatch absolutely excellent!!!!!!,tue 5th june ,hours between 11am-12.00 i had 8 sparrows,2 great tits,three chaffinces,4 goldfinch,2collared doves,2 coal tits,2 blue tits.in my back garden,craigavon, northern ireland.

  • Comment number 23.


    Have just seen a Moussiers redstart in my garden. We live in Dumfriesshire. Is this a rare bird?

  • Comment number 24.

    Firstly, These Blogs are dreadful. I thought this one was about the Biomass survey and yet all kinds of questions & observations are choking it. Bring back the messageboards! And do people not know to record the findings on-line and not list the birds here???

    Secondly, the measure is nonsense, as somebody with 5 or 6 pheasants visiting the garden get a much higher reading than those with dozens of smaller birds across many species who depend on, and regularly us,e the garden while the Pheasants just passed through. What about non avian bio-mass (including plants, insects etc!)?

  • Comment number 25.

    What does every think about the plans to cull Buzzards, to protect landwners Pheasants.

  • Comment number 26.

    I would like to champion the Stag Beetle (and others that need rotting wood to complete their life cycle.
    Last spring, while going about some tidying in the garden,i noticed that the stumps from old lilacs were finally giving way so i proceeded to dislodge them only to find the MOST amazing site.I thought I had found something in mid developement from some land far away.I was dumb struck,at the same time somewhat repulsed.WHAT had I found!
    So off I went to my trusty reference library'The Living Countryside"(1980's) (oh yes,I'm Canadian and don't hold that against me)to see what I could find.I found tha what i had seen was the larva stage of the endangered Stag Beetle.I felt SO bad having disturbed it adn proceeded to do what I could to tuck it up again.In the process,I found two more! AAAAG! remorse!!!
    But the most staggering bit is that this amazing creature needs THREE YEARS to complete it' s development.What a lottery! What a precarious life!I feel so protective of them now, moreso.
    Did I say this larva was HUGE? that's what shocked me.
    So, could someone tell me if this year ,nay, this month the one when it will emerge and the males manfully heave themselves around my garden again? They are regularly sited "on my patch'.

  • Comment number 27.

    The last few years I have had a breeding pair of goldfinches in my garden. This year they are here but not visiting my garden at all. These are by far my favourite garden bird and would like advice how to get them back! x

  • Comment number 28.

    I have a very busy bird garden with many starlings, sparrows, bluetits, blackbirds and collared doves. But!! Does anyone know how I can get rid of a flock of feral pigeons that swoop down and gobble up everything in sight. Margaret Glendye


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