This weekend the annual RSPB Big Garden Bird Watch takes place, when thousands of people across the country will be spending an hour at their windows or in public parks recording what birds make an appearance. The largest number of each species seen at any one time is noted and all results, along with postcode are submitted to the RSPB website. The RSPB are staging a number of events and you can find out what is local to you here.
The Big Garden Birdwatch began in 1979 as an activity for the RSPB’s junior membership to take part in at a time of year when it was cold and evenings were at their darkest. The BBC’s flagship children’s programme Blue Peter loved the idea and with their publicity the first survey delivered over 34,000 submissions to RSPB offices. It wasn’t until 2001 that the survey was opened to adults and as use of the internet has grown so has the number of survey submissions and now over half a million take part each year.
The recent cold and snowy weather has brought increasing numbers of birds to our gardens and in many cases the odd rarity too. Based on activities in our garden in Hertfordshire through January our ‘perfect’ list would look something like this;
12 Blue tits
10 Long tailed tits
6 Great tits
3 House sparrow
3 Coal tits
2 Greater Spotted Woodpeckers
2 Collared Dove
Wood Pigeon (100+ in field behind)
However I suspect our species and numbers from the weekend will be more than a little different. Long list or short, I’ll be sure to submit my results and if you are based in the UK, I hope you will be too.
The BGBW is of course one of many surveys collated by the UK’s bird organisations. Both the BTO and RSPB, amongst a host of other conservation initiatives, conduct research work across the country to ascertain the state of British avian populations and the longer term trends contained within the data. From the Garden Birdwatch data alone, we can see a 20% increase in Blue tit numbers since 1979 but we also see a 66% drop in House Sparrows, a 32% decline in Robins, a staggering 80% fall in Starlings as well as an 800% rise in Woodpigeon numbers.
So, if you are in the UK spare an hour this weekend to take part in our largest national bird survey and if you are a visitor from elsewhere around the globe, investigate what bird surveys are conducted that you can contribute to. The data generated is crucial in building a picture of our environment and how it is changing and can help in conservation efforts, wherever you are.