Two years ago, on 9 January 2014, I got up before sunrise to do the British Trust for Ornithology’s early-bird survey. I had to fill the feeders and watch to see which species came first. I also had to note whether there was any artificial light, and I recorded that there was a little.
The survey ran between 4 and 12 January and 3,460 people took part.
Now Gary Clewley of the BTO’s demography team has done the analysis and told us the results. They show that birds arrive later to feed in gardens with high levels of artificial lighting, regardless of whether they are in town or country. The reason may be that they forage elsewhere before visiting gardens, or they might avoid gardens if there is a higher risk of predation there in a well-lit environment. The availability of food is also relevant—where it is more abundant, birds might not need to start feeding so early in the morning to survive.
The survey found that blackbirds arrived first, followed by robins and blue tits. My results were long-tailed tits, robin then collared doves. My first arrivals were at 7.53, about 20 minutes after daylight.
It is nice to contribute to our knowledge of bird behaviour.