Friday, 12 January 2018

A Counting Conundrum and Cattle Egret

So what are your counting skills like? Or estimating skills I should say... We popped into Greendale Farm Shop today (along the A3052 near Westpoint) and I was astonished to see the number of Linnets feeding in a neighboring field. I estimated 500 birds when I quickly counted this flock perched up, but what do you think?



I'll post the answer in a blog post on Sunday night, but before that I'd love to read your guesstimates. And I don't mean sit there and count them one by one, take a quick look, count them like you would a large flock of moving birds in the field, and let me know what number you come up with. Be so interesting to see the variation in responses. Is my 500 bang on the money, or would you go higher or lower?

I've been off work this week, and for the last few nights have been trying to get to grips with the Egret roost, but I've kept missing them! They keep switching sides, one night roosting on the Borrow Pit then the next night roosting in Axmouth - and I kept picking the wrong side!  Tonight finally I was in the right spot, and at Axmouth one Cattle Egret (which I reckon is a wintering bird that's been with us since Nov 2017, just been spending the day time north of the patch) and 48 Little Egrets came into roost.

Also tonight there were good numbers of large gulls on the lower Estuary at dusk. Sadly there was nothing better in them than this dodgy looking third-winter (I think) hybrid-type...



And lastly, Sue Murphy saw the two Musbury Hawfinch this afternoon, both from the car park near the Church.  Delighted that someone else has managed to catch up with them.

Right then, get guesstimating folks... 

11 comments:

  1. I have often wondered how the numbers of birds in large flocks are estimated. Is any actual counting involved? I assume it is a question of a lot of experience but I wondered if there are any specific tricks/techniques employed ?

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    1. Hello 'unknown'. The commonest technique is to count a section of the flock, then multiply that throughout the flock. Sometimes it's in tens, sometimes it is thousands - depends on the size of the flock. See my reply below to Richard Edwards comment. All the best.

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  3. I'd go for 700 for that lot, Stevie. I took about 10 seconds to get that figure. The handful of times that I've guesstimated a flock size and then been able to count it properly (either in the field or from a photo) I have always underestimated, so generally up my estimate a bit to try and compensate. I'll be interested to see what the actual count is...

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    1. Thanks Gavo! You were closer than me...

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  4. When a flock is evenly spread,I'd count 10 and then go 20,30,40...so I quickly estimated 450. But a photograph of a flock will often reveal more than this if you ink them out one by one. Most people underestimate which is because nobody wants to exaggerate. Guesstimation is OK but if you're like me then you want to go through them all 5 times!

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    1. Thanks for the comment Tim. Oddly, and I don't know if this is a me thing, but unless I have a clicker, if Im looking through a flock of birds for the chance of a rarity or scarcity (say Golden Plover flock, or Wigeon flock), once I've completed that scan two of three times, I then have to go back through to count again! Basically I can't scrutinise properly and add up at the same time!! Probably shouldn't admit to that really...

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  5. How about counts for massive flocks of woodpigeon flying over ? Do you have an idea of what say 500 birds look like and use the same method ?

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    1. Hi Richard. I actually find larger birds easier to count in big numbers, including Wood Pigeons. It depends on how big the flock is, but I usually count in groups of ten, then when I get to say fifty birds, multiply that group size through the flock. Unless it's a proper massive flock, then sometimes I do it in groups of several hundred (maybe even 500!). But you are right, once you seen enough on a morning, just the size of the flock can be enough to get a good estimate on the number. Best way to learn though is to do it in the field, and take photos to look at later! All the best.

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  6. Well my first quick estimate got to 1700 but I think thats too high. Id say 1000+ if i was entering on BirdTtack.

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  7. Well my first quick estimate got to 1700 but I think thats too high. Id say 1000+ if i was entering on BirdTtack.

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