Wednesday, 22 January 2014

25 et 26 janvier 2014 : Grand comptage d'oiseaux du jardin

The RSPB's Big Garden Birdwatch is in its thirtieth year. During the weekend of 25th/26th January, spend an hour recording the birds that use your garden, and pass the results to the RSPB.

Meanwhile, in France... 

The Ligue pour la Protection des Oiseaux (LPO), in conjunction with the National Natural History Museum of France, is running the same thing, on the same days, for the second year. Last year, Britain achieved nearly 600,000 observers, France just over 3,000 who recorded 160,000 birds. The numbers in France may seem small, but it is possible to obtain valuable scientific data nevertheless. For example, the LPO has issued a press release entitled "Unusual absence of birds frequenting our bird tables" pointing to a 30% reduction in numbers and attributing it to the poor spring of 2013 and the mild temperatures which mean that migratory species are staying further north than normal. This count will provide evidence to show whether those northerly species have started to arrive.

And last year was just the first year.  The LPO's introduction to the snappily-titled "appointment in the gardens to count the birds there" is here.

All you have to do is
  1. choose a day and one-hour time period that weekend
  2. choose a place - your private garden, workplace grounds, local public park or balcony
  3. count the birds you see. A downloadable sheet is provided for this purpose with pictures of the 52 commonest garden birds on it, though hawfinch might be a bit optimistic. This sheet also gives the French names for these birds, which you will need for entering the data. There are a number of sites which give bird names in English, French and their scientific form, such as this one. For those with Android, you can buy an app, apparently.
  4. submit the counts via the oiseauxdesjardins website here.
Crib sheet, page 1

The birds have to be using your garden. That is, a buzzard flying overhead does not count. A sparrowhawk diving through in search of prey does count. Also, record the maximum number of birds of any particular species you see at any one time. You may think there are more than three bluetits around, but you can't be sure.

That fourth point is the fun bit. Full details of the registration and data entry procedures are here. It explains that oiseauxdesjardins is a national site (using the VisioNature database), but there are a number of regional or departmental sites with portals to the national site. If your garden is in one of these areas, you will be redirected to the local site to complete your observer's registration and enter your data. You can record more than one garden, but you only register as an observer once.

The registration procedure is:
  1. Go to
  2. Click on "j'aimerais participer" (green box at the top of the page)
  3. Select your département.
  4. If you have a local site, you are redirected there. In Indre et Loire this is In future, you will always use this local site. .If redirected, once again Click on "j'aimerais participer".
  5. Fill in the registration form (name, address, e-mail address) and validate it. An e-mail will be sent to you with your password. When you receive this, you can sign on to the observatory and register a garden.
To register a garden,
  1. Decide on a name for your garden.
  2. Click on Participer - Oiseaux des Jardins - Ajouter un Jardin.
  3. Select your département
  4. Select your commune.
  5. Locate your garden on the map by moving the red pointer.
  6. Enter the name of your garden. 
  7. Click on Suivant.
  8. Fill in the Garden Description form then click on "enregistrer les données" to register the garden.
To add your sightings:
  1. Click on Participer - Oiseaux des Jardins - Transmettre les observations de mon jardin.
  2. Enter the day and time of your birdwatch session
  3. For each species of bird you have seen during this session that is on the principal list of garden birds, click on the bird, enter the count and press suivant.
  4. For any species not on the principal list, bring up the data entry form by clicking on one of the principal species, and select ajouter une espece. Click on the species, enter the count and press suivant.
Incidentally, there is a lot of interesting stuff for birdwatchers on your local site - recent sightings, rare species, the birds of your commune, news releases... The database handles reptiles, amphibians and mammals as well as birds, although there is little data at present. The number of sightings rather reflects the number of observers, and we are few in la sud Touraine. I notice that Tim's observation of Wood Duck in April 2011 made it to the records when someone read his post on this blog!

The RSPB has made use of sophisticated technology such as a smartphone app to register bird sitings in real time, and a downloadable data set of last year's results. But unsophisticated old me, I don't have a smartphone or a recent enough version of Excel to handle the data set. The RSPB recently renamed its magazine from "Birds" to "Nature's Home". My response was "Eeeoouw". Are we in danger of getting a bit too family friendly? 


Colin and Elizabeth said...

We are on it...

Thanks for the interesting information.

C and E

GaynorB said...

Well explained.

Perhaps next year...

Jean said...

Thanks for reminding me of the bird count this weekend. We usually take part.
The picture chart on the RSPB website is a great help. Now if someone could just persuade the birds to stand still for a moment while we count them.........

Tim said...

Jean, use your camera to capture the instant...
count the blobs and then delete the picture!!
You don't need to capture great pix!!

Unknown said...

I've passed this over to Kourosh as the birds are his. What do you do about feeding stations? There are always blue tits and sparrows etc flying back and forward there. Over an hour you would be counting the same ones.

Tim said...

Amelia - you count as many birds of a single species as you can see at any one time. This will probably give an underestimate, but that's deemed the lesser of two evils. You get the minimum number of that species, but it's accurate. P.