We are quickly approaching the next national Big Garden Birdwatch, organised by the RSPB, and registration to take part commenced on 9th December.
This ‘citizen science’ survey of our garden birds has been running since 1979, and in 2020 almost half a million people participated, making it by far the largest survey of its kind world-wide. Let’s see if we can break that ½ million barrier this time round.
If you haven’t been involved previously, it is simply a matter of allocating an hour of your time to count the birds that come into your garden during a 3-day period. This can be a fun family event and all the resources needed are listed on the project web site (https://www.rspb.org.uk/get-involved/activities/birdwatch/)
The dates for the event are 29th - 31st January 2021. There are no prizes, and whether your garden is multiple acres full of hundreds of birds or a typical urban plot with a few feeders to attract ‘your’ regulars, all records are as important as any others to the scheme.
Through these records we not only get a snap-shot of what was happening that particular year, but also develop a valuable indication of what changes are occurring over time. Last year’s records for example showed a few position changes compared to recent events, with Woodpigeon now being the 4th most-regularly seen visitor (whereas going back a decade or so, it featured far less frequently in gardens). House Sparrow continues to be the number one (for the 17th year running!) but now Long-tailed Tits are regularly entering the top ten, another new phenomenon. Chaffinches however are becoming much rarer in our gardens, reflecting their dwindling numbers across the nation.
Looking back still further, a familiar picture emerges by which we see that, although the regularity with which our favourite species are seen in our gardens, the numbers we are seeing are reducing. House Sparrows numbers for example are 53% down since 1979 when the project started. Even Robins and Blackbirds are seen in smaller numbers, being 32% and 46% reduced over the same 40 year period, whilst Starlings are worryingly down by 80%.
So do sign up on the RSPB site to take part. (www.rspb.org.uk/get-involved/activities/birdwatch/)
Although your records will need to go directly to the RSPB we would love to hear of the highlights of your findings in your Cookham garden, which can be shared on our facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/groups/wildcookham/)
There is also a Big Schools version of the event with special resources for teachers.
Finally, and to help you identify birds that visit your garden throughout the year, do visit our photographic Guide to our Garden Birds.