Once again the RSPB's Big Garden Birdwatch is upon us! This is an excellent opportunity to take some time out of your day to watch the wildlife visiting your garden and to provide valuable data in the country's largest citizen science project!
But what is the purpose of this bird count and what do I need to do to get involved?
What is the Big Garden Birdwatch?
The birdwatch has been an annual event for 41 years that is a citizen science project on a huge scale. It allows the RSPB to gather huge amounts of data up-and-down the United Kingdom to see how our garden wildlife is doing. All you need to do is to spend an hour at your window – or if you don't have a garden – your local park, and make note of what types of birds you see during that time. You just need to record the most you see of any type of species you see at any one time. Don't count up the total consecutive birds you see, otherwise, it is likely that you'll be double-counting birds as they tend to visit the area for a second or third time.
This is for those with even the tiniest of urban gardens to those with the largest of estates. Perhaps you are only visited by the odd wood pigeon or maybe you have a multitude of winged visitors. Regardless, all this information is useful to the RSPB.
This year the birdwatch is happening on 25, 26 and 27 January. So find a chance during this time to see what is happening outside.
What happens to the results?
Half a million people are involved yearly with this birdwatch so it is an excellent opportunity to see how garden birds are faring across the UK. It enables the RSPB to calculate the overall trend of species over time to see which species are under threat and need help in these ecologically turbulent times.
After you have submitted your results, the number crunching begins! First, all the duplicates, anomalies and errors are removed in the data to ensure that it is scientifically valid. Then the data can be sorted in various ways including by geographical area. From this, populations of different species can be compared. An average number can be calculated based on the abundance of each species. This is set in context against previous years' data to find out any long-term trends.
Stark long-term trends can be revealed by data collection. It can shine a spotlight on human effects on the environment and the wildlife that depend on it, particularly issues such as habitat destruction and climate change.
Between 2007 and 2017 the biggest decrease in a species in the UK was the Greenfinch, which suffered a 66% decline. However, it is been a good period for the tiny Wren, which in this same period has seen a population increase of 87%!
In 2019, 472,758 people counted 7,699,138 birds. Below are the top 10 most sighted birds.
Top 10 UK Birds in 2019
- House sparrow
- Blue tit
- Great tit
Attracting birds into your garden
It is amazing how quickly garden birds find your garden when you leave out tasty foods for them. There is a variety of seeds, nuts and fat balls for birds that you can buy to put in a feeder to attract hungry birds in your garden. Make sure you place them out of the way of the garden's number one predator, the domestic cat.
You can also make use of your leftover kitchen scraps. Fruits, grated cheese, oats and sultanas are all big winners, for example. Avoid meats and processed foods as these are not healthy choices for birds.
Do not forget that birds need to drink too, even in cold weather, so make sure there is a fresh supply of rainwater to keep them hydrated.
Of course, to fully invite our feathered friends into the garden you can mount a bird box. Do this before the breeding season when birds are looking for places to nest. You can use one of our bird box cameras to watch the resident birds without disturbing them and check on their progress throughout the nesting season.