The world’s largest garden wildlife survey, now in its 38th year, takes place on 28, 29 and 30 January 2017. Since it began it has provided valuable information about the wildlife using our gardens in winter.
Sightings of well known species such as starlings and song thrushes experienced another drop during the Big Garden Birdwatch last year. This decline continues a trend that has seen the number of both species visiting gardens decline by 81 and 89 per cent retrospectively since the first Birdwatch in 1979.
But it wasn’t all bad news. The tiny long-tailed tit flew into the Big Garden Birdwatch top 10 – for the first time in eight years – after the average number seen visiting gardens across the UK increased by 44 per cent.
In excess of half-a-million people joined in the world’s largest garden wildlife survey in 2016 spotting more than eight-and-a-half million birds. The house sparrow remained top of the Big Garden Birdwatch rankings, with starling and blue tit rounding off the top three.
Daniel Hayhow, RSPB Conservation Scientist said: “With over half a million people now regularly taking part, coupled with over 30 years worth of data, Big Garden Birdwatch allows us to monitor trends and helps us understand how birds are doing. With results from so many gardens, we are able to create a 'snapshot' of the birds visiting at this time of year across the UK. Even if you see nothing during your Big Garden Birdwatch hour, that’s important information too, so please let us know.”
As well as counting their feathered friends, the RSPB is once again asking participants to log some of the other wildlife they see in their gardens and green spaces such as grass snakes, hedgehogs, stag beetles, stoats and moles. Gardens or outdoor spaces are an invaluable resource for many species – they can provide a safe habitat and enough food and water to survive – which are likely to have a significant effect on their populations.
Daniel added: “The threats to our wildlife means that it’s facing tough times. For example it is estimated that we’ve lost more than half of our hedgehogs in the last 50 years. We're going to include this part of the survey every year now, enabling us to monitor the distribution of our other wildlife as well as trends in bird numbers.”
To take part in the Big Garden Birdwatch 2017, watch the birds in your garden or local park for one hour over the weekend. Only count the birds that land in your garden or local park, not those flying over. Report the highest number of each bird species you see at any one time – not the total you see in the hour.
The survey is part of the RSPB’s Giving Nature a Home campaign, aimed at tackling the housing crisis facing the UK’s threatened wildlife. The RSPB is asking people to provide a place for wildlife in their own gardens and outside spaces – whether it’s putting up a nest box for birds, creating a pond to support a number of different species or building a home for a hedgehog. The Big Garden Birdwatch is just one of the steps you can take to help nature near you. Wherever you live, you can help give nature a home.
For your free Big Garden Birdwatch pack, text BIRD to 70030 or visit rspb.org.uk/birdwatch
The parallel event, Big Schools’ Birdwatch takes place during the first half of spring term next year, 4 January – 17 February 2017. Further information can be found at rspb.org.uk/schoolswatch