Sunday, 9 September 2012

Survey: What other species might be using the feeders put out for the Tree Sparrows ?

This took place on 2nd September, last Sunday. We were concerned that though volunteers were filling up the feeders with red millet most days of the week we didn't know to what extent the seed was being eaten by other species. Some doubt was there that we might be feeding carrion crows and grey squirrels, which to most concerned birders and naturalists, would be a waste of seed and volunteers' time.

We staked out the feeders and watched in shifts from about 60 metres away from a small hide, designed for one person around a folding chair, lent by Jane Uttley, (except for Andy Cockroft, who used his usual fishing umbrella arrangement.)

The results were that we need not have worried - by far the most regular feeding species, and the only one in any numbers, on 2nd September 2012 was Tree Sparrow. We also got a good estimate of the size of the flock at the colony, two of us independently estimating it at up to 40 Tree Sparrows.
This is up 100% on last winter when typical counts were in the 20s. They must have either had a good breeding season or attracted some wanderers. (Tree Sparrows with rings have been controlled after crossing the whole of England.)

These were the results of our Sunday watch:

Observer and times

Andy Cockroft 06.30 - 08.30

Maximum count of TS at feeders 27
Greenfinch 3
Robin 2
Great tit 2
Blue Tit 3
Dunnock 1
Chaffinch 1
Andy said it was an interesting and worthwhile excercise

Steve Blacksmith 08.30 -10.30

Max TS at feeders 11 (but c.30 in hawthorns around the feeders at the same time.)
Robin 2
Great Tit 1
Greenfinch 1
Blue Tit 1
Steve pointed out that there were several dog walkers and joggers passing the other side of the hedgerow during his watch but agreed it was revealing and interesting to see the different use made of feeders away from a garden.

Jane Uttley 10.30 - 12.30

Weather :- Mainly cloudy but mild, occasional light drizzle

Tree sparrows were by far the most common, up to 20 on the feeders at one time and many more (15+) waiting in the bushes. They came in groups at a time,  fed for about 15 mins. then flew off to return in about 30 mins I am not sure if they were the same ones but I suspect they were.
10.50 - 11.10 up to 12 feeding at a time
11.45 – 12.00 up to 20 feeding at a time
In between just 2 – 4 feeding
Other Birds
1 blue tit and 1 great tit twice but did not feed
1 chaffinch and 1 greenfinch ate for a few mins
2 robins fed for a very short while.
Other birds in bushes (heard not seen) Great spotted woodpecker, dunnock , wood pigeon, collard dove and wren. Rooks and Jackdaws in fields but not near feeders. So obviously we seem to be doing well with the tree sparrows though not sure what will happen in the winter when other birds ‘run out’ of food

Dave Sutcliffe 14.30 - 16.30

Tree Sparrow feeding – and using the feeders in equal measure
20 + from 14.30 till 14.37
2 from 14.37 till 14.45
18+ from 15.01 till 15.15
10 from 15.15 till15.25 and 2 House Sparrows with them
27 in the top of a nearby bush with another c18 on the feeders at the same time (12 together in one feeder) all at 16.10 till 16.15
None after 16.15
In between – 1 Gt Sp Woodpecker very briefly on the feeder at 14.35 may have been put off by the model aircraft and did not stay long
1 Great Tit put in 2 very short appearances on the feeders at 14.37 and 16.00
No other species used the feeders while I was there though Goldfinch and Greenfinch and 1 Linnet were nearby


  1. it would be good to do it quarterly to see if anything changes ,now we have started with some good data.

  2. I agree,Andy. Use these data as a baseline.

  3. Well done all. A great effort. A good estimate of population as well as confirming that we are not 'wasting' much feed on other species.

  4. Brilliant that they are doing so well - a fantastic job to all involved.

    Could you point some towards Cromwell Bottom please?

  5. Its only a matter of time before they refind the feeding station at CB..fingers crossed

  6. Great work and well done to those involved, very rewarding to see that the efforts of local birders to increase this fragile population seem to be paying off.