Posted 21st Jan 2014
Images courtsey of RSPB
It will be eyes to the skies this weekend as the nation takes part in the RSPB's annual Big Garden Birdwatch from 25th to 26th January
You don't have to be a wildlife expert or need a huge garden to take part - all you really need is a comfy chair, a cup of tea and an hour to spare.
The activity is the biggest garden bird survey in the world and last year almost 600,000 people counted the birds in their garden. This year, participants will be hoping that further declines of garden favourites recorded last year have slowed down.
Starlings hit an all-time low in the 2012 Birdwatch but their numbers then sunk by a further 16 per cent last year. Numbers of house sparrows, which are of high conservation concern, dropped by 17 per cent in gardens compared to 2012, whilst bullfinches and dunnocks fell by 20 per cent and 13 per cent respectively.
Big Garden Birdwatch, which has been running for 35 years, provides the RSPB with masses of information about changes in numbers of garden birds in winter, and helps to alert conservationists to significant declines in UK garden species like house sparrows and starlings. This year, for the first time, participants are being asked to log some of the other wildlife they see in their gardens too, making it the biggest garden mammal and amphibian survey in the world too.
The RSPB wants to know whether people ever see deer, squirrels, badgers, hedgehogs, frogs and toads in their gardens, to help them build an overall picture of how important our gardens are for giving all types of wildlife a home. The charity will gather useful information about these other species and share them with its conservation partners after the survey. Once the RSPB knows which species people are regularly seeing, it will also be able to tailor its advice on giving nature a home so that people can help their wild visitors nest, feed and breed effectively.
Participants don't have to count these other species over the Big Garden Birdwatch weekend, just tell the RSPB whether they have ever seen them in their gardens, at any time of year. To take part, you are asked to spend just one hour at any time over the Big Garden Birdwatch weekend, noting the highest number of each bird species seen in your garden or local outside space at any one time. You then have three weeks to submit your results to the RSPB, either online at www.rspb.org.uk/birdwatch or in the post. Happy spotting!