Surveying at your garden away from home! (Guest Blog)

December 10, 2019
Garden BirdsSurveys

It’s week two of the 2019/20 Irish Garden Bird Survey, kindly sponsored by The Ballymaloe Group. If you’re not already taking part, there’s still time to get involved.! You can find full details of how to take part in the survey by clicking here, and you can download the survey form by clicking here. After that, the survey homepage here will lead you to anything else you might need to do with garden birds this winter.


Though the survey title obviously includes the word ‘garden’, that term is somewhat flexible. Many schools put out a couple of feeders and keep an eye over the winter, so this very much falls under our definition of a garden. Similarly, some people aren’t content enough with making note of all of the birds in their garden at home, that they’ve brought the survey to work with them, so to speak.

One such person is Lorcan Scott, Wildlife Officer with The Heritage Council. Read below to find out about Lorcan and colleagues are doing the survey at their place of work, and maybe start thinking about getting your workplace involved this winter! They’ve come up with a novel way of keeping track of weekly sightings too, which might work for you either at home or at work!


The Irish Garden Bird Survey – The Heritage Council, Bishop’s Palace, Kilkenny.

I first took up the post of Wildlife Officer with the Heritage Council in early December 2018, based at the Bishop’s Palace in the heart of Kilkenny city, the well-established grounds have fantastic potential to support a wide range of natural heritage and to achieve this goal, an area away from the formal gardens was set aside as a “Wildlife Garden”.

The staff of the Heritage Council were all very supportive when I suggested that we would all participate in the BirdWatch Ireland winter Garden Bird Survey, to record what species we had visiting over the winter.

Given the glass wall nature design of the Pavilion building it dawned on me to use glass-markers to set out the Garden Bird Survey Counts and this has turned out to be a popular addition, which is visually easy to follow and user friendly.

With the week numbers across the top and bird species running down the axis, staff can rub-out the last highest count to place the new count. Bird identification skills were very mixed and early records were hesitant, but as confidence levels grew, before long, we had staff all able to participate with the regular fiches, corvids and more common species.

So, for 2018/9 we had a total of 25 species – all were listed on standard Garden Bird survey sheet – there were a few notable absentees, such as Blackcap which are resident from Spring onwards and with our good mature tree cover, I am surprised we didn’t pick-up a few treecreepers.

All in all, the project was deemed a great success, staff are all anxious to begin our second season and to hone-in on our bird ID skills. Perhaps if your office / canteen has the capacity you could involve your staff in this fantastic survey, which will certainly take focus away from work related topics over coffee and diner breaks and can add value to the biodiversity knowledge at your place of work.


 – Lorcan Scott (Wildlife Officer) The Heritage Council