Bird count 2021 – “Stunde der Wintervögel” in Germany

The bird count 2021 "Stunde der Wintervögel" took place this year from the 6th to the 9th of January. On this weekend the Nature And Biodiversity Conservation Union (or NABU) and its Bavarian associate - the Landesbund für Vogelschutz (LBV) - ask all people in Germany to participate in this nationwide citizen science project to count birds in gardens, parks, at bird feeders or on the balcony. Of course, I have participated in this bird count again and write about my bird observations in Berlin in this blog entry.

Which bird species will be in the top three this year on the weekend of the bird count 2021 "Stunde der Wintervögel"? Maybe again like last year the house sparrow, the great tit, and the blue tit? Or the birds on the first three positions will by replaced by other birds like Eurasian tree sparrows and common blackbirds?

Apropos blue tit.

How are blue tits? Will the number of observed blue tits decrease on the weekend of the bird count 2021? Or maybe not? Considering the mass die-off last year in spring 2020 among blue tits, it might be possible that there will be fewer blue tit observations this year.

blue tit

Information: A bacterium - Suttonella ornithocola - was responsible for the mass die-off. This bacterium caused a lung disease particularly among blue tits, although other tits like coal tits and great tits as well were affected by this lung disease. The bacterium was also detected in some long-tailed tits. However, not to such a large extent. Blue tits, in general, suffered most this lung disease. You can find more information and most recent news about this topic on the NABU website (only in German).

Nevertheless, everyone is invited to participate in this citizen science project. The more people participate, the more data is collected and available. The more data is collected, the better conclusions can be made about the state of the birds in Germany.

There are only some few rules which have to be taken into account when counting birds. For example, participants should note only the maximum number of individuals of a bird species found at one spot and seen simultaneously.

For example, if you see an Eurasian nuthatch in one moment and another one ten minutes later, you should not count two nuthatches, but just one. However, if you see two nuthatches at the same time - maybe one at a bird feeder and another one close-by moving up a tree trunk - you have to write down two nuthatches.

The NABU has created a video in the past about how to count birds in winter (the video is unfortunately only in German). Of course, this video is still relevant for the bird count 2021. The video is short and explains clearly how to participate in this citizen science project.

As I neither have a garden nor a balcony, I went to the Tiergarten in Berlin to participate in the bird count 2021. I have already been there last year for the bird count "Stunde der Wintervögel 2020". I made some great bird observations last year like the one with a brambling or the one with a common buzzard.

This year again I had some great bird observations. One observation was particularly special for me...

Counting birds in Berlin

I went to the Tiergarten on a nice and sunny Sunday morning. The weather was quite changeable on the preceding days. Likewise, the next days were expected to be rather cold, rainy and uncomfortable. Therefore, I saw that Sunday morning as being just perfect for a one-hour stroll through the Tiergarten in the heart of Berlin.

I knew already two spots in the park were they spread bird seeds on a bridge or provide bird fat balls close to a bird feeder.

However, at first I went to the bridge. And I was indeed quite impressed by the amount of birds flying around.

On that feeding site I saw especially many blue and great tits.

great tit

But there were also many common blackbirds around. I had to be very attentive to count the number of all birds correctly. Sometimes one bird flew to the feeding ground while another one just had left again.

I tried my best to correctly count the birds. I didn't want to count a bird twice or overlook another one, respectively.

On the following two photographs is a male (on the left) and a female (on the right) common blackbird.

blackbird
bird count 2021

I not only saw quite many tits and blackbirds, I also saw a nuthatch on that feeding ground.

nuthatch

And an European robin.

European robin

Nevertheless, I didn't stay for such a long time at this feeding ground, as I wanted to go to the second feeding ground close-by.

The light on that sunny day was just beautiful. Despite the bare trees in winter, I very liked the environment of the Tiergarten on that day. I used the warm colors of the light to photograph the birds.

I walked along the river, but at all times I remained as attentive as possible.

Of course, I also had to count the birds in the water I encountered on my stroll to the second feeding ground. From a distance, I even saw a grey heron.

Bird count 2021
grey heron

Especially the colors of the Mandarin ducks shone beautifully in the warm light of that winter day.

Mandarin duck

But also the coloration of the mallards shone wonderfully.

Later I found a common moorhen anywhere in the water. But it was more difficult to capture this bird in the warm light of the day as it swam in a shady place.

mallard
common moorhen

When I finally arrived at the bird feeder or bird feeders, respectively, a great number of birds were already flying around. Besides the bird feeder along the path I saw another one a bit hidden under some branches.

Nevertheless, on that feeding ground it was again alive with tits.

great tits in Berlin
blue tits in Berlin

I very like this spot in the Tiergarten of Berlin, as at this place it is comparatively "easy" to photograph birds (although it is still a challenge for me!).

It is a great bird photography spot in my opinion. At this spot I can knock out the background of a photo, and thus, give priority to my photo subjects - the birds.

The great tits were especially photogenic on that day.

great tit in Berlin

Of course, I did not forget the bird count 2021, although I was photographing the birds.

However, again it was a big challenge to count correctly all the great and blue tits. I did my best to determine the exact number of birds!

Easier to count was, in contrast, once more the nuthatch.

bird count 2021

Easier to count was also the long-tailed tit I saw approaching one of the bird feeders.

I was especially happy to see one long-tailed tit on that day as I do not see them quite often. Unfortunately, it stayed only for a short time at the bird feeder and disappeared again.

long-tailed tit

I was also looking around and I was focused not only on the bird feeders. I hoped to spot more different bird species for the bird count 2021.

And yes. I did!

Although rather inconspicuous with its plumage among the bare trees, I spotted a single Eurasian jay on a branch.

Close-by I saw a middle spotted woodpecker. Sometimes I also see a great spotted woodpecker around the bird feeder. But on that Sunday I didn't see one on my one-hour stroll.

Eurasian jay
great spotted woodpecker

Even more inconspicuous in the Tiergarten among all those tits appeared to be the house sparrow. Although the house sparrow has typically been the most common bird during the weekends of the bird counts, I couldn't spot many of them.

bird count 2021

Finally, in the next section I will summarize the results of the bird count 2021 "Stunde der Wintervögel".

Results of the bird count 2021

The bird count 2021 "Stunde der Wintervögel" reached a new record. More than 200.000 nature lovers participated in this Germany-wide bird count. Almost twice as many as last year!

It is great to see that so many people take part in a citizen science project and the number even seems to increase year after year.

However, which bird species have reached the top positions during the bird count 2021?

Well, there are no big surprises with respect to at least the two first positions.

Last year house sparrows, great and blue tits were most often seen during the bird count weekend. This year, however, the Eurasian tree sparrow replaced the blue tit on the third position. The blue tits, in contrast, even fall back to rank five. The common blackbird reached position four.

bird count 2021

Why has the blue tit reached only rank five during the bird count 2021? Has the number of blue tits decreased in general? And if there is indeed a decline, is this decline connected to the bacterium Suttonella ornithocola and the resulting lung disease? Or were blue tits just searching for food in other places? Because the colder and snowier a winter, the more birds come to bird feeders. Was the winter not cold enough to attract more blue tits to the gardens or parks? But why have house sparrows and great tits reached their first positions again while blue tits have not?

There are still many open questions to be answered...

Information: Do you want to know more about the impacts of this lung disease on the blue tit population? According to the NABU it is not possible to draw a final conclusion by now to make this bacterium responsible for the decline in the blue tit population. Thus, please check regularly the NABU website to get most up to date information.

Nevertheless, there might be some differences among the regions in Germany. For example, house sparrows and great tits have also reached the first two top positions in Berlin. But the hooded crow has finished up in third place and not the Eurasian tree sparrow.

I was a little bit surprised that the long-tailed tit was observed more often in Berlin than the nuthatch. I was surprised, because I regularly see nuthatches in the Tiergarten, but not long-tailed tits. However, of course, the observations for the bird count 2021 not only came from the Tiergarten, but from all over Berlin!

nuthatch
bird count 2021

On the other hand, I have to say that I haven't been in the Tiergarten this winter on a regular basis...

Nevertheless, by all means it was again a beautiful day with many nice bird observations! Of course, I will participate this year again in the bird count 2021. But the next time this citizen science project is known as "Stunde der Gartenvögel" in Germany!

More informationen

Citizen Science: Counting birds in January

Bird count in May - A citizen science project

Bird count 2021 - "Stunde der Gartenvögel" in Germany

Results of the bird count 2021 "Stunde der Wintervögel"

Summary by the NABU

bird count 2021
bird count 2021

Have you participated in the bird count 2021 "Stunde der Wintervögel"? If yes, which birds have you seen? Please let me know in the comments!

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