Eyes to the skies for the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch - 26-28 January 2019
The RSPB’s world famous Big Garden Birdwatch is celebrating its 40th anniversary this weekend and with the weather about to change in many parts of the UK, it’s anyone’s guess what might turn up!
The wildlife charity is asking everyone to count the birds in their garden or outside space for one hour any time over Saturday, Sunday or Monday and record what they see. You stand a better chance of seeing more activity out the window around dawn and dusk but any time is absolutely fine. And importantly, if your feathered friends shy away from the limelight during that hour, the RSPB still really needs to know that you didn’t see too much!
Just one hour every year for the last four decades has made the Big Garden Birdwatch the largest garden wildlife citizen science project in the world and during that time, hundreds of thousands of people have volunteered their time providing the RSPB with over 8 million hours of monitoring garden birds.
An astonishing 130 million birds have been counted, giving the RSPB a real insight into which species are flying high and which need some careful attention.
What started as a bit of an experiment on Blue Peter with an expected handful of people writing in to the programme to tell what they saw, actually lead to 34 bin bags of responses. Now, around half a million people take part every year from around the UK, and outside spaces include care homes, hospitals, prisons, pub gardens and school grounds, proving that it really is an event for everyone.
And the results are fascinating. The survey was the first place that a decline in song thrush numbers was detected – it was a firm fixture in in the top ten when it began but by 2009, less than half the original numbers were recorded and it plummeted to 20th in the rankings.
The house sparrow has always been top of the pecking order, but the number one spot hides a rocky path for the loveable little garden favourite. The overall decline reported by participants is 57%, but in the last ten years, numbers appear to have crept up by 17%. Starlings have also had a difficult four decades; these plucky, iridescent birds have declined by 80% since the survey started which makes for stark reading.
On a more positive note, the survey has also shown increases in some of the larger birds like collared doves and woodpigeons and smaller visitors like coal tits and wrens.
And it’s not just about birds. A few years ago, the RSPB opened up the survey questions to discover what other creatures people see. If you’ve got half a million people thinking about their garden wildlife, why not explore further? This year the charity wants to know whether you see badgers, foxes, grey or red squirrels, muntjac deer, roe deer, frogs or toads at any time of year.
So if you would like to be part of this fantastic activity, pull up a chair, make a cuppa and settle yourself down to see what flies in! You really don’t have to be an expert, there is loads of information on the RSPB website including ID charts if you’re not 100% sure whether it’s a great tit or a coal tit for example. And even if they won’t participate for the whole hour, get your children and grandchildren to spend a bit of time doing it too. I’m not sure who was more relieved when the slightly unreliable long tailed tit that occasionally visits landed on my son’s climbing frame during last year’s hour of counting! We were thrilled to tick that one!
For more information and to take part visit www.rspb.org.uk/birdwatch
Gemma Butlin, Consumer PR Manager, RSPB
The opinions expressed in this blog are the author's and not necessarily those of the wider Link membership.
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