Tuesday, 6 October 2009

London House Sparrow Project ends

I received the final newsletter of the London House Sparrow Project this weekend. Here are a few extracts from the text:

“After 5 years of counting your local sparrows, the project is now coming to an end. We are very grateful to all of you for your kind help over the years, whether you helped feed the sparrows, allowed us access to your gardens, or plied us with welcome cups of tea.

“So what have we found after five years of feeding sparrows? Feeding mealworms during the summer increased nesting success of sparrows in every year. However, we only saw an impact of feeding on adult numbers when we fed year-round seed as well as mealworms. [A graph then shows that] adult numbers increased on fed sites, only after seed feeding was introduced in 2007. This suggests sparrows lack sufficient insects to feed their young, and also seed to get them through the autumn and winter.

“With a focus on a few sites over the winter we've been able to work out the “survival rates” (percentage surviving from one year to the next) of our sparrows at the fed and "unfed" sites. Analysis suggests that about 51% of our colour-ringed birds are getting through the winter months, which is pretty much the figure that is cited in other studies as the percentage annual survival for house sparrows. So it doesn't appear that our sparrows are unduly suffering over the winter. It does sound like a lot of birds perishing each year - we have to remember that such small creatures are often rather short-lived, and that maintaining the population depends on a lot of young being produced to counter this.

“For our last fieldwork we looked at a few sites this summer to check on our survey methods for fledglings” [this included the Cliffview Road site; Bird Champ].

“Meanwhile, our exciting new project has begun. The RSPB House Sparrow Parks Project. Officer, Jacqui Weir, with the help of the Royals Parks, the London boroughs and SITA Trust, is trying out large scale experiments on London's green spaces, to find out what sort of park management is best for bugs and seeds, and therefore sparrows and other birds. This is an amazing project which will hopefully produce improvements to London's grassland biodiversity! Jacqui [jacqueline.weir@rspb.org.uk] is the primary contact for your enquiries about this work

“Once again thank you to everyone for your amazing support, we could not have done it without you. And please do visit http://www.rspb.org.uk/ for more details of how you can continue to support our work. In the meantime, please keep looking after your local sparrows!”

So that’s it. The end of the London House Sparrow Project. We’ll miss Chris Orsman’s regular visits here and thank him again for the generous donation of seed, feeder and nest boxes for Hilly Fields Park.