By Ann Evans
If you like to see the birds in the garden, then set aside an hour this coming weekend, 30-31st January to take part in the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch. It’s all part of the RSPB’s Give Nature a Home campaign, aimed at tackling the problems facing the UK’s threatened wildlife.
This annual survey of the UK’s bird-life is now in its 37th year and it provides vital information on how the UK bird population is doing and the changes in numbers of birds using our gardens in winter. Results have revealed that many of our most popular species are in decline.
Conservation-wise, the UK’s birds can be divided into three categories: red, amber and green. Red being the highest conservation priority with species needing urgent action. Next critical are birds on the amber list, and then green. Last year, although the most common bird spotted in our gardens was the house sparrow it is actually on the red list due to a severe decline in numbers. Estimates indicate that numbers have dropped by 71% between 1977 and 2008. The situation in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland however indicate an increase in house sparrow populations.
The starling takes second place in last year’s Big Garden Birdwatch but again numbers have plummeted since the birdwatch survey began in 1979, and the starling is another bird on the red list, with the RSPB urgently trying to find out why its numbers are declining.
Happily, the blackbird which was the third most widely spotted bird in our gardens, with more than 90% of us catching sight of one, is on the RSPB’s green list. The cheeky, chirpy robin – voted the UK’s National Bird, moved up three places on last year’s charts to seventh place. Eight-five per cent of birdwatchers last year spotted a robin in their garden.
In last year’s Big Garden Birdwatch the tiny wren was spotted by 35% of people taking part, plus it was the highest number of wrens sightings recorded since 2006.
Worryingly, song thrush sightings had declined to an all time low, coming in at 22nd on the list, and remaining on the red list. While 25th in the list of species, numbers of Greenfinch have dropped dramatically. The experts say that it could be because of Trichomonosis disease. We can all help here by making sure that bird feeders, bird tables and bird baths are cleaned regularly.
More than half a million people are expected to take part in the coming weekend’s Big Garden Birdwatch. You’ll find all the information you need at the RSPB website. You’ll also be able to register and download a pack to help you spot the species that come into your garden: (http://www.rspb.org.uk/)
The top 10 birds in 2015 were:
1. House sparrow
4. Blue Tit
5. Wood pigeon
8. Great Tit
Photos courtesy of RSPB images.