Your chance to get involved with the world’s biggest wildlife survey
16:20 24 January 2013
It’s the return of the Big Garden Birdwatch this weekend - the world’s biggest wildlife survey.
The RSPB’s annual Big Garden Birdwatch is back on Saturday and Sunday, giving people across the region the chance to be part of the world’s biggest wildlife survey.
Last year, almost 80,000 people in our region took part in Big Garden Birdwatch, and between them counted thousands of birds.
To take part, just spend one hour at any time over Big Garden Birdwatch weekend noting the highest number of each bird species seen in your gardens or local park at any one time.
You then have three weeks to submit the results to the RSPB, either online at www.rspb.org.uk/birdwatch or in the post. It’s that easy.
Now in its 34th year, the survey provides the RSPB with an important snapshot of garden bird populations in winter and has helped to highlight some dramatic declines in UK garden birds.
In the first survey in 1979, an average of 15 starlings were seen per garden, but that fell to an average of just three starlings per garden in 2012 – the lowest level to date.
House sparrow numbers have fallen by two-thirds over the lifetime of the survey too.
The declines of birds like starlings and sparrows over the last 30 years or so have been alarming, but Big Garden Birdwatch has helped the RSPB to find out more about their numbers and distribution across UK gardens.
Some bird species have fared considerably better over the years. Sightings of popular species like blue tits, great tits and coal tits in gardens have increased since 1979.
Goldfinches, which were absent from the Big Garden Birdwatch top 15 in the early years, have featured regularly as a top 15 species since 2004.
Facts about the Big Garden Birdwatch
• Does time of day matter?
No. The time of day you do your Birdwatch may affect the numbers and variety of birds you see but it won’t affect the overall results. This is because there are so many people counting birds in lots of gardens all over the weekend.
We also get asked about things like the weather and food but because our scientific types (they’re really clever) use information from thousands of gardens the effects of weather, food and time all even themselves out – incredible isn’t it?
• Why don’t I need to record weather on the form?
Because the survey area is so large, somewhere it may be raining, somewhere it could be sunny, elsewhere there might be frost, so we count the weather as a random factor.
• When I carried out my Big Garden Birdwatch, I didn’t see many birds. How can the results be accurate?
Because more than half a million people Step Up for Nature and take part, the results will be very useful and should enable us to spot trends – like we did with house sparrows.
No garden on its own will harm the results as we’re collecting data from hundreds of thousands of gardens; we put it all into a computer, push a few buttons and get the official results.
If you see fewer birds than normal during your Birdwatch, don’t panic – it’s likely that others may see more – so everything will balance up in the end and we’ll get a good picture of garden birds across the UK.
And don’t be tempted to add in that bird you regularly see in your garden but didn’t see during the Birdwatch.
Tom next door or Rita around the corner or Sarah in the next village may have seen it so it will have been recorded already.
Lastly, please submit your results – even if you don’t see anything! That’s really important because then we can see where birds aren’t, as well as where they
So please submit your form, even if it’s blank.
• Why do you only want us to record the birds for one hour?
Because everyone has a spare hour they can give to step up for nature.
By only asking people to spend an hour watching, it’s likely we’ll get lots and lots of people taking part. This means we’ll get a higher number of snapshots of UK gardens and that equals good quality information. And, at the end of the day that’s what we need.
• Why is the Big Garden Birdwatch in winter?
Because that’s the time of the year garden birds need us
most – if it’s really cold it’s likely more birds will come into our gardens looking for shelter and food.
• How does the RSPB use the results?
Once all the results are in, and the scientists have done their stuff, we end up with a picture of bird numbers.
We look at the long-term trends to identify which birds are doing well and which need our help.
What’s really important is we do the survey in the same way each year (like we’ve been doing since 1979).
That way we can compare results to see population trends.
• Register to take part in Big Garden Birdwatch 2013 at www.rspb.org.uk/birdwatch or call the hotline on 0300 456 8330 to receive a free Big Garden Birdwatch pack.
• For bird food, bird feeders and accessories visit www.rspbshop.co.uk