Count the wildlife that’s counting on you

Half a million people are expected to watch and count their garden birds for the 2018 RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch in January. The world’s largest garden wildlife survey, now in its 39th year, is set to take place on 27, 28 and 29th of January 2018. With the public asked to spend just one hour watching and recording the birds in their garden or local green space, before submitting their results to the RSPB.

Close to half-a-million people joined in the world’s largest garden wildlife survey in 2017, counting more than eight million birds and providing valuable information about the wildlife using our gardens in winter. The house sparrow remained top of the Big Garden Birdwatch rankings, with starling and blackbird rounding off the top three. Followed by blue tit in fourth and woodpigeon in fifth.

Rank Species Average per garden in 2017 LONG TERMAverage per garden% change 1979 – 2017 % of gardens species recorded in 2017
1 House sparrow 4.3 -57 67
2 Starling 3.2 -79 48
3 Blackbird 2.9 -27 93
4 Blue tit 2.5 +2 80
5 Woodpigeon 2.3 +1060 79
6 Goldfinch 1.6 N/A 34
7 Robin 1.6 -21 89
8 Great tit 1.4 +60 59
9 Chaffinch 1.3 -57 40
10 Long-tailed tit 1.2 N/A 30
11 Collared dove 1.1 +309 47
12 Magpie 1.1 +178 53
13 Dunnock 1.0 +23 50
14 Jackdaw 0.7 N/A 21
15 Feral Pigeon 0.6 N/A 17
16 Coal tit 0.6 +219 31
17 Carrion crow 0.6 N/A 25
18 Greenfinch 0.4 -59 17
19 Common gull 0.4 N/A 9
20 Wren 0.3 +114 29

Last year’s Big Garden Birdwatch also revealed an explosion in the number of recorded sightings of waxwings. These attractive looking birds flock to UK gardens in winter once every 7-8 years when the berry crop fails in their native Scandinavia. Known as an ‘irruption’, results showed that waxwings were seen in around 11 times more gardens in 2017 compared to the last couple of years, with sightings as far west as Wales and Northern Ireland.

Daniel Hayhow, RSPB Conservation Scientist said: “The birds we see in our garden are often the first experience we have with nature – whether it’s a flock of starlings at the feeder, a robin perched on the fence or some house sparrows splashing in the bird bath. But it may come as a surprise to know that some of our most-loved species are in desperate need of our help as their numbers have dropped dramatically.”

“The Big Garden Birdwatch is a great opportunity to get involved with helping our garden wildlife. By counting the birds that visit your outdoor space, you’ll be joining a team of over half-a-million people across the UK who are making a difference for nature. It only takes an hour so grab a cuppa, sit back and see who makes a flying visit to your garden.”

Species such as starlings and greenfinches have seen their numbers visiting gardens decline by 79 and 59 per cent retrospectively since the first Birdwatch in 1979. Though last years survey also highlighted some good news – particularly for robins with the average number found visiting gardens at its highest level since 1986.

As well as counting birds, the RSPB is once again asking participants to log some of the other wildlife they have seen throughout the year. This year, people are being asked to look out for badger, fox, grey squirrel, red squirrel, muntjac deer, roe deer, frog and toad.

To take part in the Big Garden Birdwatch 2018, watch the birds in your garden or local park for one hour at some point over the three days. Only count the birds that land in your garden or local park, not those flying over. Tell us the highest number of each bird species you see at any one time – not the total you see in the hour.

The parallel event, Big Schools’ Birdwatch takes place during the first half of spring term next year, 2 January – 23 February 2018. Further information can be found at www.rspb.org.uk/schoolswatch

Big Garden Birdwatch and Big Schools’ Birdwatch are part of the RSPB Giving Nature a Home campaign, aimed at tackling the house crisis facing the UK’s threatened wildlife. The charity is asking people to provide a place for wildlife in their gardens or outdoor spaces – whether it’s putting up a nest box for birds, creating a pond for frogs or building a home for hedgehogs.

For your free Big Garden Birdwatch pack, which includes a bird identification chart, plus RSPB shop voucher and advice to help you attract wildlife to your garden, text BIRD to 70030 or visit www.rspb.org.uk/birdwatch

Registration for Big Garden Birdwatch 2018 opens 13 December 2017.

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