Famished finches

This winter, British gardens are full of finches (Fringillidae). Seed-eating finches such as the siskin (Carduelis spinus) turned up more frequently than usual in the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) Garden BirdWatch survey for January 2012. In fact, twice as many siskins were seen in gardens, compared to the previous three years’ January surveys.

Tim Harrison at BTO says the finches are hungry. We had a terrible year for the seeds that these birds rely on, just as we had a terrible year for the crops that our farmers rely on. That we all rely on.

As Mr Harrison says, if you want to know how the plants are doing, look at the finches. Put out seeds for them if you can. Then admire these pretty birds. He says, ‘The next few weeks will see some of the best garden birdwatching opportunities of the year, so keep your eyes peeled and please let the BTO know what you see.’

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About argylesock

I wrote a PhD about veterinary parasitology so that's the starting point for this blog. But I'm now branching out into other areas of biology and into popular science writing. I'll write here about science that happens in landscapes, particularly farmland, and about science involving interspecific interactions. Datasets and statistics get my attention. Exactly where this blog will lead? That's a journey that I'm on and I hope you'll come with me.
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5 Responses to Famished finches

  1. Finn Holding says:

    I’m looking forward to seeing either a siskin or a bullfinch on my seed feeders. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a siskin in the garden and I haven’t seen a bullfinch on a feeder since I was a kid in the 1970’s, before their numbers went into freefall.

    • argylesock says:

      I’m reading you! My bird-feeding days are over (too often housebound by disability, too often away at my partner’s house) so I greatly enjoy seeing your reports. Those of our fellow blogger rosewinelover too.

      I don’t think I’ve ever seen a real live siskin. Now you mention it, I last saw a bullfinch the last time my cherry tree fruited, and in this frosty garden we don’t often get a cherry year.

  2. argylesock says:

    I’ll let you know if I do. Such dramatic colour. A great-aunt and great-uncle of mine (*very old* to my childhood eyes in the 1970s) had a standard cherry tree. In season, the lawn was littered with cherry stones that the bullfinches would drop.

  3. Carol Hague says:

    As you may have seen on my LiveJournal, we had a visit from a couple of siskins a week or two ago and this is the first time we’ve seen any in seven years of living in this house (although we’ve only had the feeders out for the last year or so, which probably also makes a difference).

    We’ve never had a bullfinch here, but my sister in Somerset sees them regularly on her feeders – there were three males in her garden when we had dinner at her house on December 25th.

    We get goldfinches, sometimes in double figure quantities and greenfinches, usually in pairs, and of course the chaffinches, cheerily declaiming “Plink! Plink!”

    Of course hardly any of them turned up when we were doing the count for the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch a few weeks back – shy, perhaps 🙂

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