Bird count. Scroll down below or click here for the monthly tables.
The monthly bird count has a pleasing predictability about it, yet it brings some exciting surprises from time to time.
In January 2015 we also took part in the RSPB’s hour long Bird Watch – recording how many of each species can be held in view at any one time to avoid any over count. The highest number was 10 blackbirds followed by 8 wood pigeons. The list for 2015 included robin, blackbird, wood pigeon, mistle thrush, feral pigeon, redwing, greater spotted woodpecker, long-tailed tit, dunnock, blue tit, great tit, ring-necked parakeet, greenfinch, wren, coal tit, crow, jay and starling.
The winter months are often cold first thing, yet are good for visibility – with no leaves on the trees. Spring is full of birdsong from our resident bird population and nest building and feeding of young. We have a number of thick hedges that provide cover despite the high foot fall – commuters walking between tube and hospital or home, and good cover from the high population of squirrels always ready for an egg or two. August becomes the quiet month when bird song drops to its lowest, and autumn the birds are hopefully building up strength for winter. We often see wood pigeons and others gorging on berries. Seasonal visitors include the large flocks of redwing (with fieldfare intermingled) that we have had visit in recent years around the January/February time, the swifts overhead from May until end of July and the flocks of starlings when the areas of long grass begin to set seed.
There is a group of birds that we always see and who hold territory. This includes blackbirds, crows, blue tits, great tits, robins, wrens, wood pigeons, feral pigeons, magpies, dunnocks, goldfinches. We often see jays, long tailed tits, ring necked parakeets, starlings, greater spotted woodpeckers, chaffinches, greenfinches, mistle thrushes, (the occasional song thrush) and fieldfares amongst the redwings in winter. From time to time we see goldcrests and also coal tits – and recently sparrows in the nesting season.
Above us there are often gulls and cormorants from the nearby Thames – and the occasional sparrow hawk or kestrel, but we don’t count these. The most spectacular of the birds of prey are our two peregrine falcons that rear their young on a balcony on Charing Cross hospital. We see them perched on one of the down pipes watching us as we record them. Occasionally we see a bird blown off course and landing briefly in the cemetery such as the spotted fly catcher (June 2013).
How the count is done
We carry out the bird count at the same time of day once a month, and walk the same course – clockwise around the perimeter starting from the north gate. It usually takes 90 minutes to 2 hours. Certain species are harder to record as they move around a great deal. We make an educated guess of who we have counted already, sometimes going by how many we can see at any given time. This tends to include crows, wood pigeons, feral pigeons, redwings, goldfinches and long tailed tits. We find the birds often by sound, picking up song and then stopping and looking carefully for the bird we expect to see. Movement, even in leafy trees, is very useful, and a knowledge of what habitat different species favour – starlings in the grass, blackbirds on the ground under the hedges, wood pigeons in the big trees, smaller birds in the shrub and hedges, robins begging to be seen. We also know different parts of the cemetery favoured by different birds, and who we expect to see on the birdfeeders in neighbouring gardens over the wall. We don’t record if not sure, but we do make a note of those heard but not seen.
Who holds the records? The smallest bird is the goldcrest, the largest is the female peregrine falcon. One of the loudest is the wren! The biggest flocks are the feral pigeons and visiting redwings. The bird most consistently with the biggest count apart from pigeons, is the blackbird (15 to 40+) with numbers swollen by influxes of visitors and juveniles in summer. The dramas in the cemetery include competition for nesting holes particularly in the past between great spotted woodpeckers and ring necked parakeets, both of which incidentally, have provided a meal for the falcons. Over the years, we are building up a good picture of the bird population of the cemetery.
Bird Count 2016 (and 2015)
Bight, cold. 6C
Chill wind 6C sunny
Cold sunny 2C
Warm sunny 19C
Dull then rain
|Blackbird||22||29||25||23||28||26 inc. 2 young|
|Blue tit||12||11||9||9||10||8 inc. 3 young|
|Coal tit||1||1||0||1||1||0 but 1 heard|
|Goldfinch||15 probably more||12||17||12||8||3|
|Great tit||12||8||10||7||8||13 inc. 1 young|
|Greater spotted woodpecker||1||2||0||0||1||0|
|Magpie||3||2||1||4||1||5 inc. 5 young|
|1 on hospital - saw off an intruder||0||1||1||2||3 on hospital - inc. 1 fledgling|
|Redwing||6 first this year||10||10||0||0||0|
|Robin||8||9||6||10||13||11 inc. 1 youg|
|Wren||0 - 1 heard||1||0||4||4||6|
Sunny, cold. 4C
Sunny cold 4C
Sunny cold 11C
|Blackbird||22||24||23||18||28 (Inc. 3 fledglings)||21 (mostly males)|
|Crow||10 - in 2 groups||6||4 (inc. one with nest building material||4||3||5 Inc. 2 young|
|Dunnock||0 (but seen recently)||1||2||3||5||1|
|Greater spotted woodpecker||1||2||1||1||0||0|
|Greenfinch||1||0||0 (1 heard)||2||1||1|
|Long-tailed tit||2||4||3||0 (1heard)||0||0|
|Magpie||8 (inc. group of 7)||3||3||2||2||3|
|Mistle thrush||2||1||5 (inc. 2 parents feeding 3 young)||2||1||0|
|2 (on hospital)||1 (on hospital)||1 (on hospital)||0||2 (Still incubating eggs that will not hatch, no chicks this year)||2 (on hospital)|
|Robin||9||10||9||10 (inc. 2 fledglings)||11 (Inc. 2 chicks, 1 juvenile||8 (Inc. 2 separate young)|
|Wren||4||3||5 (plus 1 more heard)||3||4 (2 more heard)||6 (Inc. 3 young, more heard)|
|0||0||0||0||3 - newly arrived||1 (overhead)|
12th July 2015
8th August 2015
13th September 2015
|Details||Dull. 20C||sunny intervals 18C||Dull. 11C||sunny 9C||Cloudy. 15C|
|Blackbird||19 (Inc 4 young)||21||22||21||13|
|Blue tit||5 (Inc 3 young)||10||9||9||7|
|Crow||1 (+ 1 heard)||4||5||5||4|
|Feral pigeon||53||19||33||17 (Poss more)||88 (2 flocks)|
|Goldfinch||6||1 ( inc. juveniles)||15||15 (Poss more)||19|
|Great tit||9 (Inc 4 young)||7||7||6||16|
|Greater spotted woodpecker||0||1 (juvenile)||0||1||0|
|Greenfinch||0||0||0 (1 heard)||1||1|
|Jay||0||1 (juvenile)||1||0 (But heard)||2|
|Long-tailed tit||0||0||0||0 (But heard)||1 (heard more)|
|Magpie||2||1||3||7 (Poss more)||4|
|2 (on hospital)||2 (on hospital)||1 (on hospital)||0||2 (on hospital)|
|Ring-necked parakeet||4 (Inc 2 young)||1 (more than 1 heard)||3||0 (Heard)||7|
|Robin||5 (Inc 1 young + 1 heard)||5||9||9||4|
|Wood pigeon||5 (a very low count)||15||22||13 (Inc. several juveniles)||17|
|Wren||2 (Inc 1 young +2 more heard))||1||1 (1 more heard)||2||0 (3 different individuals heard)|
|Green woodpecker||0||1 (juvenile)||0||0 (But recent)||0|
|Pied wagtail||0||1||0||0 (Wagtails heard)||0|