Arran bird watch finds chaffinch is most common garden bird

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The last weekend in January was the weekend of the RSPB Big Garden Bird Watch. Individuals, families or groups not only took part in this survey of garden birds but some shared their results with me.

This year there were 30 sets of results sent to me. This was a few more than last year. Many participants commented on the negative impact of the unsettled weather on the number of birds and indeed the summary shows fewer species and fewer birds than last year.

Species not recorded this year but recorded last year included great spotted woodpecker, goldcrest, song thrush and yellowhammer. Although more gardens were involved this year, the number of  birds was down. For example last year 339 chaffinch were counted and this year it was 274. Similarly last year 158 house sparrow were recorded and this year it was 106.

This year chaffinch and robin were reported in every garden except one in the survey. Chaffinch had been recorded in every garden in six out of the previous seven years.  Robin had been recorded in every garden in three of the previous four years. This year in the survey 30 species were recorded in Arran gardens.

From the collation from all the gardens, the top 10 birds this year in terms of the number of gardens in which they were seen are: chaffinch, robin, great tit, coal tit, blackbird, blue tit, house sparrow, dunnock, siskin and goldfinch. Nine of these have been in the top ten in slightly different orders for the last four years. The change this year is the first appearance of siskin in the top 10.  This year it was reported in 50 per cent of the gardens. In 2017 siskin was reported in 20 per cent, 2016 it was 14 per cent and 2015 it was reported in no gardens during the survey. In contrast greenfinch, which was reported in 40 per cent of gardens in 2017, was only reported in 17 per cent this year.

Other notable changes in number of gardens in which species were recorded are: long-tailed tit went from two last year to five this year, sparrowhawk went from two last year to six this year and wren went from seven last year to four this year.

By far the largest total of birds seen was chaffinch with 274.  House sparrow was the next most counted species with 106 and siskin was third with 84.  For a collation of all the Arran data from the Big Garden Birdwatch for the last four years visit

While this information is interesting, too much should not be read into these small samples. It is a fun survey to do but it only covers one weekend in the year. If you enjoyed doing it, there is a garden bird watch that you can join that encourages people to record their garden bird sightings every week of the year, the British Trust for Ornithology Garden Bird Watch (GBW). To find out more about the BTO Garden BirdWatch visit

Finally, in Sweden there is a similar survey  to the RSPB survey. The most frequent bird table visitor from the Swedish survey is great tit, with other spaces at the head of the list taken by tree sparrow, greenfinch, yellowhammer, blue tit and blackbird. (Winter Birds by Lars Jonsson published by Bloomsbury in 2017.)

Enjoy your birding

Please send any bird notes with ‘what, when, where’ to me at Kilpatrick Kennels, Kilpatrick, Blackwaterfoot, KA27 8EY, or e mail me at  I look forward to hearing from you.  For more information on birding on Arran purchase the Arran Bird Atlas 2007-2012 as well as the Arran Bird Report 2016 and visit this website