The RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch has again flown by for another year. It is the world’s largest garden wildlife survey, and last year saw more than 519,000 people across the UK taking part recording an amazing 8,262,662 birds! This year was set to be another big success and many people have been hoping to get some unusual records with migrants like Waxwings, Bombycilla garrulus, making their way to the UK because of the colder weather and our bumper crops of berries.
The Big Garden Birdwatch is a fantastic citizen science project, which has proved to be very useful to scientists over the years, highlighting population trends and alerting conservationists to problems such as an emerging disease in Greenfinches.
Currently in its 38th year, the Big Garden Birdwatch initially started off as a one-off activity for it’s junior members back in 1979, and was so successful it became a yearly survey and in 2001 adult members could also take part.
Taking part in the survey could not be easier, it asks that you take just one hour of your time over the three days to sit and watch the birds in your garden. The RSPB suggest that you have the essentials close to hand, such as your note book to jot down what you see but also a nice hot drink and your favourite biscuits! The methodology for the survey is simple too, take a note of the maximum number of each species you see at any one time. So if you have 4 blue tits on your feeders, they disappear and 2 more arrive, the number you write down is 4. It is then unlikely that you will double-count the same birds.
So with my essentials at the ready, the trusty RSPB handbook of British birds, binoculars and cup of coffee I began my hour of relaxing (sorry, scientific research) watching the birds. Having had to take the feeders out of the garden for a few months, due to some unwanted visitors, I was not sure what would be making its way to the garden for the count, but I was not disappointed with our regular visitors. Such as the Blue tit above, Dunnocks, Blackbirds, and our faithful Robin who keeps me company whilst out and about in the garden.
With a long mixed hedge running along the boundary, our garden also does very well for House sparrows. Although one of the regulars to most peoples garden’s, this species has shown a dramatic decline in population, dropping by 71% between 1977 and 2008, in both their rural and urban habitats. The cause for this decline is still unknown but it is thought that changes to agricultural practices may be having an effect on the rural populations, whilst changes to houses and gardens may be affecting roosting opportunities in urban areas. Because of its decline the House sparrow is red-listed as a species of high conservation concern.
Along with our usual visitors, this little Pied wagtail has started to make itself at home under the feeders clearing up all the left overs but also chasing off the Blackbird and Dunnocks who are usually the ones to monopolise picking up the scraps. The poor Dunnock is always the first to get chased off anyway without the Pied wagtail joining in too, I may have to think about introducing a ground feed tray to keep them all happy!
Unfortunately, two of the regulars from last year were a no show for the survey, but here are a couple of photos of the juvenile Great spotted woodpecker and the Goldfinch I took last year. The feeders were a huge success last year and at one point we had the whole family of woodpeckers enjoying the peanuts, hopefully they will return later this year and bring their young back to the garden.
So our tally for the Big Garden Birdwatch was as follows, not quite as impressive as Chris Packham which he tweeted on Saturday, but I am happy with it especially as we only put the feeders back out a few days before.
- House sparrow – 8
- Dunnock – 3
- Robin – 2
- Blackbird – 3
- Blue tit – 5
- Pied wagtail – 1
- Jackdaw – 2
In the UK our gardens cover an estimated 10 million acres, thats a space bigger than all of the UK’s nature reserves combined. This makes them a vital mixed habitat for our birds and wildlife. There are many small changes you can make to your garden to make it wildlife friendly and I will be doing a short post on that soon to give you some ideas.
If you took part in the survey don’t forget to submit your results to the RSPB by the 17th February either by post or online here.
The results from this years Big Garden Birdwatch will be out in March so keep your eyes open for them. If you would like to find out more about the work of the RSPB or past results from the Big Garden Birdwatch you can find it here.
There are also some amazing photos on twitter from the Big Garden Birdwatch, just search for #BigGardenBirdwatch and take a look!