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Garden Finches

Missing: Garden Finches

This winter has seen incredibly low numbers of Siskins, a small finch that traditionally turns to our gardens for food during the winter, according to the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) Garden BirdWatch. This is probably due to a bumper crop of Sitka Spruce seeds, but with the recent drop in temperatures, will Siskins return to our gardens before the winter is out?

The presence of all birds in gardens is dependent on food availability in the wider countryside and the weather. This particularly applies to Siskins, which love nothing more than the seeds of the Sitka Spruce tree. In years where there are lots of seeds available, Siskins have less need to come into gardens in search of food, except when the weather is wet and the Sitka Spruce cones close up.

BTO Garden BirdWatch data show that Siskin numbers usually start to increase in gardens by the end of the year, as the amount of natural food diminishes and the weather worsens. However initial results suggest that at the end of 2014, Garden BirdWatch saw the lowest proportion of gardens reporting Siskins since the survey began in 1995. According to the Forestry Commission, 2014 looks like it was another good year for Sitka Spruce which, combined with a relatively mild and dry winter so far, could be why Siskins are missing from gardens this winter.

Clare Simm, from the BTO Garden BirdWatch team, commented: "It’s always exciting to see a Siskin in the garden, but this year fewer Garden BirdWatchers have had that treat than ever before in the survey. We wouldn’t know this without the help of the public, so if you spend a few minutes each week watching what the birds get up to in your garden, why not get involved? You can contact us for a free magazine and information pack on how to take part."

Will Siskins come flooding back into our garden with the cold weather, or will the Sitka Spruce crop keep them away? Help us find out!

To get your free magazine and information pack, or to find out more about the BTO Garden BirdWatch please get in touch by emailing gbw@bto.org ( gbw@bto.org ), telephoning 01842 750050, or write to GBW, BTO, The Nunnery, Thetford, Norfolk, IP24 2PU. More information can also be found at www.bto.org/gbw ( http://bto-enews.org/NXI-3596T-3BWYNQ-1G5XK3-0/c.aspx )

Clare Simm

28th January 2015