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Ayrshire, Scotland


Article: A Year in The Garden


Since 1986, 43 species of birds have been recorded within my parents' suburban garden in Kilmarnock (Ayrshire, Scotland). Since I left in 2000, very little recording has been carried out. Unfortunately I never saw the 41st (which of course had to be the highlight!): a Rose-coloured Starling lingered for only a few minutes on the morning of 7 September 2002. It was first sighted on the garage roof with a gang of it's vulgar relatives and then dropped down on to the patio below for some food scraps before flying off. My parents were the only observers as I was thousands of miles away in Peru watching Andean Cock-of-the Rock.... which I might have swapped for this garden tick, given the choice. All 43 species occurred within an area encompassing the boundaries of the garden and the airspace up to the level of the highest part of the roof. A further 21 species have been sighted flying over and therefore excluded from the |defined list|.


One of the reasons a good range of birds was recorded, apart from a reliable source of winter feeding, was probably due the fact that the borders of five rear gardens (including this one) met at a point where a few Sycamores, a Birch and a Larch grew to create, in effect, a miniature nature reserve. Passing birds would often stop and rest on the tree tops. Large trees are fairly scarce in the area since the gardens are small and less mature than older, more established areas of the town. However, over the years various neighbours had the bright idea of removing these wildlife-rich sources and replacing them with that urban monster known as Leyland Cypress x Cupressocyparis leylandii. As a result our annual box-breeding Blue Tits finally ceased as their much-needed resource of larvae for the chicks eventually disappeared. Our garden has three Rowans trees which have been there a long time but are going nowhere due to the enforced shading and drought created by the rampant hybrid conifers.


Confirmed breeding birds have been Blue Tit, Starling, House Sparrow, Blackbird and Dunnock. Within the immediate area in Spring, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Song Thrush and Collared Dove can be seen and heard singing and probably breed. Garden rarities have been Waxwing, Brambling, Redwing, Grey Wagtail and Rose-coloured Starling - all involving just one record each. Some species, such as the Song Thrush, are far less regular now while others, such as the Magpie (from the early 1990s) and Collared Dove (the late 1990s), are increasingly common in the area. The Siskin and Coal Tit, in particular, have been very periodic in abundance with no records in some years.

The table below shows the monthly pattern of occurrence of each species over the years.





























 Black-headed Gull













 Common Gull













 Lesser Black-backed Gull













 Herring Gull













 Feral Rock Dove













 Wood Pigeon













 Collared Dove













 Tawny Owl







































 House Martin













 Pied Wagtail













 Grey Wagtail


























 Rose-coloured Starling




















































 Carrion Crow

































































 Willow Warbler

































































 Song Thrush













 Mistle Thrush


























 Long-tailed Tit













 Blue Tit













 Great Tit













 Coal Tit













 House Sparrow














































































 Reed Bunting














The 23 other fly-overs sighted from the garden have been; Cormorant, Grey Heron, Whooper Swan, Greylag Goose, Pink-footed Goose, Mallard, Pintail, Tufted Duck, Goldeneye, Goosander, Common Buzzard, Peregrine, Kestrel, Oystercatcher, Golden Plover, Lapwing, Redshank, Curlew, Snipe, Skylark, Meadow Pipit, Fieldfare, and Raven.


I often wonder what the next new bird will be. Some relatively common birds have never put in an appearance, e.g. Long-tailed Tit*, and this may be due to the fact that the area is perhaps not so well connected to the major nearby woodland habitats.


*eventually recorded in December 2008.


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   Fraser Simpson    www.fssbirding.org.uk