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Gardens offer winter lifeline to birds 16.11.18

IRISH gardens provided a vital lifeline for birds last winter as some of the worst spells of cold weather gripped the country, a new survey shows.
The results of the Garden Bird Survey 2017/2018 reveal that cold and hungry birds flocked in greater numbers to our birdfeeders and domestic outdoor spaces seeking nourishment and shelter from weather events such as the ‘Beast from the East’.
Severe snowfalls in February and March this year also resulted in some “truly bizarre” sights in gardens. Some wading birds like snipe, lapwing and golden plover left their usual seaside habitats in sub-zero temperatures for sanctuary and food inland.
However, the annual statistics show there was no change at the top of the bird table with festive favourite, the robin, recorded in every one of the gardens surveyed.
The feisty little redbreast was joined by the blackbird and blue tit in the top three, a position they’ve collectively retained for over 20 years.
The stalwart trio were followed by the chaffinch in fourth place, magpie in fifth and the great tit in sixth.
Birdwatch Ireland Garden Bird Survey co-ordinator Brian Burke said 806 families and individuals took part in the 2017/2018 survey.
He said the wildlife charity was heartened by the number of people who sought advice on helping birds through the severe weather.
February and March were dominated by red alert cold weather warnings with Storm Emma closely following on the heels of the ‘Beast from the East’.
The Robin.
“Amongst all the meteorological mayhem it was heart-warming to see how many people were eagerly seeking advice on how to get their garden birds through the worst of the weather,” said ornithologist Mr Burke.
“Ninety-one species (of bird) were recorded in gardens last winter, the joint highest for any year of the survey.
“Species such as meadow pipit, reed-bunting and yellowhammer all made their way into a much higher number of gardens than usual on account of the snow, as did several species of gulls,” he said.
He said that some small-bodied species that rely heavily on insects for food such as the stonechat and wren were among the hardest hit by the snow.
However, this may have been offset by a good breeding season that followed in spring 2018.
The 30th Garden Bird Survey 2018/2019 begins on December 3 and Birdwatch Ireland would appreciate as many participants as possible for its special thirtieth anniversary. See www.birdwatchireland.ie for details.

Top 20 garden birds 2017/2018
Robin, recorded in 100% of gardens.
Blackbird, 99.1%
Blue tit, 98.8%
Chaffinch, 93.2%
Magpie, 92.6%
Great tit, 92.4%
Coal tit, 87.1%
Goldfinch, 87%
House sparrow, 85.2%
Wren, 83.9%
Starling, 82.3%
Dunnock, 81.6%
Song thrush, 81%
Woodpigeon, 71.7%
Greenfinch, 70.2%
Jackdaw, 68.5
Rook, 65.1%
Collared dove, 63.4%
Hooded crow, 58.3%
Pied wagtail, 55%
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