Posted 21st Jan 2015
This weekend, from 24th to 25th January, the 37th RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch will take place and they're asking you to get involved and record the birds you spot, plus the other wildlife you see in your garden, park or local area, to help them monitor the health of our countryside
The RSPB is encouraging individuals and families across the UK to count the number of birds they manage to see over just one hour on the 24th and 25th of January in their garden or local outside space. These cold conditions can prove ideal for spotting species at bird tables or feeders as birds rely heavily on us for food, water and shelter during these chilly winter months.
Bird populations are a great indicator of the health of the countryside and since the Birdwatch started in 1979, the survey has provided information about the changes in numbers of garden birds in winter, and helped to alert conservationists to those species in decline like house sparrows, greenfinches and starlings.
The number of people taking part has grown considerably and now around half a million participants help give nature a home every year by getting involved, making it the world’s biggest garden wildlife survey. People then have to submit their results to the RSPB before 13th February 2015, either online at www.rspb.org.uk/birdwatch or via post (you can register for your free Big Garden Birdwatch pack at www.rspb.org.uk/birdwatch).
Almost 7.5 million birds were counted in the 2014 survey, with the results showing greenfinch and starling numbers continue to decline. For the first time however in Birdwatch history, the great spotted woodpecker made it into the top 20 and goldfinches swooped into the number seven spot.
Here are some of the top species spotted in gardens across the UK over Big Garden Birdwatch last year to look out for:
1. House Sparrow: An average of four of these were spotted per garden across the UK. Found from the centre of cities to the farmland of the countryside, house sparrows feed and breed near to people. Vanishing from the centre of many cities, but not uncommon in most towns and villages, they’re absent from parts of the Scottish Highlands and are thinly distributed in most upland areas.
2. Blue Tit: A colourful mix of blue, yellow, white and green make the agile blue tit one of our most attractive garden visitors. In winter, family flocks join up with other tits as they search for food – flitting onto bird feeders, or feeding on seeds and scraps left on bird tables and on the ground.
3. Starling: Starlings are noisy characters that from a distance look black, but close up you can see they have green and purple glossy feathers, covered in white and buff spots. In winter, starlings from northern Europe join our own birds, and together form huge flocks.
4. Blackbird: While male blackbirds live up to their name, confusingly, females are actually brown, often with spots and streaks on their breasts. You'll quite often spot these birds hopping along the ground with their long tails up in the air. In winter, migrant blackbirds from northern Europe join our resident birds.
5. Woodpigeon: Woodpigeons are our largest and commonest pigeon. They have small, round, grey heads, white neck patches, a pink breast, and greyish bodies. You've probably heard their cooing call, and the loud clatter of their wings when they take flight.
6. Chaffinch: The chaffinch is the UK's second commonest breeding bird, and is arguably the most colourful of the UK's finches. Its patterned plumage helps it to blend in when feeding on the ground and it becomes most obvious when it flies, revealing a flash of white on the wings and white outer tail feathers. It does not feed openly on bird feeders – it prefers to hop about under the bird table or under the hedge. You'll usually hear chaffinches before you see them, with their loud song and varied calls.
7. Goldfinch: Goldfinches might be small and quite dainty, but their striking red faces and the bright yellow flashes on their wings (which give the bird its name) certainly make them hard to miss. Goldfinches often travel between feeding sites in small noisy flocks and have a twittering call.
8. Great tit: Great tits are green and yellow with striking glossy black heads, white cheeks and a distinctive two-syllable song. They feed on seeds and scraps either left on the ground, or on bird tables and in nut feeders, often using their bigger size to boss the other birds off the food!
9. Collared dove: Collared doves are distinctive looking birds with pink plumage, a black neck collar and long, white tail with a black base. Their monotonous cooing will be a familiar sound to many of you. Although you'll often see them on their own or in pairs, flocks may form where there is a lot of food available.
10. Robin: With a bright orange-red breast, brown back and dumpy shape, robins are familiar garden birds. Despite its cute appearance, both males and females hold winter territories and will aggressively drive away intruders. They are the only garden birds to sing throughout winter and an average of one robin per garden was spotted in the most recent Big Garden Birdwatch survey.
The Big Garden Birdwatch survey is part of the RSPB’s Giving Nature a Home campaign, aimed at tackling the housing crisis facing the UK’s threatened wildlife. The charity is asking people to provide a place for wildlife in their own gardens and outside spaces – whether it by planting pollen-rich plants to attract bees and butterflies, putting up a nestbox for a house sparrow, or creating a pond that will support a number of different species. To find out how you can give nature a home where you live visit www.rspb.org.uk/homes.
You can register to take part in Big Garden Birdwatch 2015 at www.rspb.org.uk/birdwatch.
Watch LandLove #BirdCamLive from 23rd-26th January on the homepage of landlove.com & join in with the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch!
Images courtesy of The RSPB: Genevieve Leaper, Jodie Randall, Ray Kennedy, Eric Woods