Look out for our feathered friends in the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch 2020

The RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch takes place this weekend (January 25-27) – and everyone is invited to take part.

By Kevin McRoberts
Monday, 20th January 2020, 12:25 pm
The house sparrow (left), starling (top right) and chaffinch were the top three birds spotted in gardens in Scotland last year. (Photos: Ray Kennedy/Andy Hay rspb-images.com)
The house sparrow (left), starling (top right) and chaffinch were the top three birds spotted in gardens in Scotland last year. (Photos: Ray Kennedy/Andy Hay rspb-images.com)

RSPB Scotland is celebrating over four decades of Big Garden Birdwatch, and is asking people to join in with the citizen science project by dedicating just one hour of their time.

Last year more than 32,000 people took part across Scotland, and house sparrows took the top spot for the eighth year running, being seen in 72 per cent of gardens across the country.

Hopefully, due to this year’s mild winter weather, there could be many more little garden visitors making an appearance as warmer conditions give smaller birds a better chance of survival.

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Keith Morton, RSPB Scotland senior species policy officer, said: “Wildlife is drawn to our gardens, especially in winter, where it can find shelter, and often food and water.

“Big Garden Birdwatch not only produces a huge amount of interesting information, it’s also a great way for everybody to connect with all the wildlife that lives right next to them, and to take a bit of time out to enjoy their garden, the local park or even the balcony of their flat.

“Taking part in Big Garden Birdwatch helps us build a picture of how birds are doing across the country, and you get to be part of a huge nationwide effort that has now been going on for 41 years.

“Everyone and anyone can take part. It’s very easy, you don’t need expert knowledge and, whether it’s your first year or your 41st year, I guarantee you will enjoy it.

“And you can do it not just in your own garden, but in a local park or similar outdoor space.

“We are always amazed just how many people take part in Scotland each year, providing us with huge amounts of information, and proving just how much they care about our fantastic wildlife.

“Every effort is worthwhile, every Birdwatcher counts!”

Since the Birdwatch began, around 140 million birds have been counted, helping RSPB Scotland to highlight some dramatic trends in garden birds.

Our wildlife is having a tough time with the recent State of Nature report in 2019 revealing that 49 per cent of Scottish species have decreased, and 11 per cent have been classified as threatened with extinction from Scotland.

For four decades, Big Garden Birdwatch has highlighted who is thriving and who is struggling in the garden bird world.

It was one of the first surveys to alert the RSPB to the decline in the number of song thrushes in gardens.

This species was a firm fixture in the top 10 in 1979 but 30 years later its numbers are less than half those recorded in 1979.

Last year song thrushes were the 24th most seen bird in Scotland.

Anne McCall, director of RSPB Scotland, said: “Big Garden Birdwatch is a great example of how setting time aside for nature is beneficial for us all.

“With busy lives it can be easy to lose our connection with nature, but just by taking the time to observe and enjoy the wildlife around you, you’re getting that connection back.

“Big Garden Birdwatch is a fun and easy way to take part in citizen science, and to appreciate your local wildlife. We love to hear about what you see – even if you see nothing at all – it’s all valuable information.

“Everyone can get involved, and it’s a wonderful activity to do as a family.”

To take part in the Big Garden Birdwatch 2020, people need to watch the birds in their garden or local park for one hour at some point over the three days.

Only birds that land should be counted, not those flying over.

Record the highest number of each bird species seen at any one time – not the total seen in the hour.

Information packs and resources to help identify birds are available on the RSPB website

Once you have recorded the birds that make a visit, submit your results online at RSPB Birdwatch before February 16, or by post to Freepost RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch before February 11.

The parallel event, RSPB Big Schools’ Birdwatch is currently taking place until February 21. More than 60,000 schoolchildren are expected to spend an hour in nature counting birds.

More information can be found at RSPB Schools Birdwatch