But last year’s number three, blue tits, drops five places
More than 4,000 pupils and teachers across Wales counted the birds in their school grounds for one hour of one day in the first half of Spring Term (5 January – 13 February 2015). The survey is part of RSPB’s annual Big Garden Birdwatch – the biggest garden wildlife survey in the world. This year over 28,000 people across Wales took part in this citizen science survey over one weekend at the end of January.
Photo: rspb images
81% of Wales’ schools that took part in the Big Schools’ Birdwatch survey reported seeing blackbirds making these the most spotted species in playgrounds. House sparrow moved from number two to three, while the blue tit was replaced this year by the carrion crow – the poor blue tit dropping five places to number eight.
blackbird: rspb images
Sarah Mitchell, RSPB Cymru Youth and Education officer, said: “It’s encouraging that so many children and teachers continue to take part in Big Schools’ Birdwatch. This fun, interactive and educational activity available to schools across Wales and the UK not only enthuses children about wildlife, but supports the curriculum and helps us to help give nature a home for future generations to enjoy.”
The bird with the most significant change in rankings in Wales is the song thrush, which rose from 25th to 15th place, and was seen in one in every five schools. This is a welcome increase as song thrushes are a bird of conservation concern, numbers having dropped by 70% since the survey began [UK figure].
Overall, average numbers of birds spotted appear to be substantially up this year; but experts believe this is more likely to be because of the colder weather we experienced around the period of the survey compared to last winter. Numbers of birds in gardens, parks and school grounds also vary depending on the availability of a range of natural food sources. The dip in the number of finch sightings this year could indicate a plentiful supply of seeds in the wider countryside following a good summer, meaning that species such as finches are less reliant on bird feeders.
2015 average per school
Big Schools’ Birdwatch has been running for over a decade and helps to track numbers of birds in school grounds, providing an insight into how species are faring and inspiring children to give nature a home. Participating schools received a certificate and a free wildlife poster once they completed the activity and sent in their results.
This survey is a part of the RSPB’s Giving Nature a Home campaign, aimed at tackling the housing crisis facing the UK’s threatened wildlife. The charity 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.
This year the National Cycle Network is celebrating its 20th birthday. It has quietly grown over the last two decades to become more than 14,000 miles of walking and cycling paths up and down the country, passing within just one mile of half of the UK’s homes. So, if you’ve ever walked or cycled anywhere, even just a short distance from your front door, then there’s a very good chance you’ve been on the Network yourself.
Its vastness can’t fail to impress, but what makes the Network special to me is the fascinating journey it takes me on and the incredible places I can reach because of it. Often it leads me into areas of the country that a car can’t reach, and it’s those moments of peace, enjoying a unique view that can’t be seen from behind a windscreen, dodging semi-wild ponies and picnicking to a soundtrack of twittering skylarks, that makes me love it even more.
Photo: me on my bike!
Traffic-free trails are some of the most remarkable of all, and I was lucky enough to tackle most of them last summer whilst authoring a new official guidebook to the Network. Astride my trusty silver bike, camera swinging from my neck and blessed with one of the driest, warmest summers that I can remember, I spent long days in the saddle and got to know every corner of the country a whole lot better.
There were many small triumphs along the way, from flinging self and bike onto trains with only seconds to spare, to the unbeatable daily joy of rolling into the driveway of a comfy B&B, gelatinous with fatigue. But, having grown up in a family of dedicated nature-lovers and RSPB members, one of the simplest pleasures of all was stumbling upon an RSPB reserve with the time and the energy to have a poke around. If you’re looking for a family-friendly nature ride in Wales this Easter, why not try the rides below? They’re some of the finest for getting close to nature. Or, find more inspiration in the pages of my book Sustrans’ Traffic-free Cycle Rides: 150 Great Days Out, £15.99 from sustrans.org.uk/shop.
I’ll certainly be packing my panniers for an Easter ride or two. When the book was finally finished, after six exhausting months of dragging my bike up and down the country and at least 3,000 miles of cycling, most of my friends said “Bet you’ll be putting your bike in the shed for a while now.” On the contrary, my epic trip has only fuelled my passion for the countryside and awakened me to just how much more there is to see. I suspect though, after 3,000 miles of hard labour, that a new pair of padded shorts might be in order before I set out again.
Mawddach Trail (9.5 miles) Start: Barmouth train station Finish: Marian Mawr car park, Dolgellau It was teatime on a warm June day when I tackled this ride along the banks of the Mawddach Estuary, and I’ve got standout memories of golden sunshine and a gentle breeze nudging me along. Crossing the old wooden railway bridge in the opening mile is a real highlight, and it’s a great place to pause for views over the water and Snowdonia Mountains. Shortly afterwards you’ll enter the RSPB Mawddach Valley nature reserve, where warblers, blackcaps and whitethroats might be spotted in spring. Tip: Pause at the George III Hotel for a drink on the outdoor terrace overlooking the estuary. Elan Valley Trail (8.5 miles) Start: Cwmdauddwr, near Rhayader town centre Finish: Pen y Garreg Reservoir This trail climbs gently for most of the way, but the scenery is spectacular over the ruggedly beautiful Cambrian Mountains and the placid waters of four Elan Valley reservoirs. Keep a lookout for red kites soaring overhead as you ride and watch for the Elan Valley Visitor Centre around three miles in. This is where you can cross over the river and go to RSPB Carngafallt to look for woodland birds like pied flycatchers, redstarts and wood warblers. Tip: If time, visit Gigrin Farm red kite feeding station at Rhayader.
Swansea Bike Path (6 miles) Start: National Waterfront Museum, Swansea Finish: Mumbles Pier This gentle ride along the golden arc of Swansea Bay is beautiful. At the halfway point you’ll reach Blackpill, a Site of Special Scientific Interest and a particularly important overwintering spot for birds. There’s a little wildlife centre here too, or you can cross the road into Clyne Valley Country Park, Swansea city’s only country park. Tip: seek out Joe’s ice cream parlour on Mumbles Road, it’s one of the best-loved ice cream producers in Wales.
Burton Marsh Greenway (14 miles) Start: The Harp Inn, Little Neston Finish: Chester Cross, Chester This route straddles the border between England and Wales, with marvellous views over the Dee Estuary and mountains in the Clwydian Range in North Wales. After around three miles you’ll reach RSPB Burton Mere Wetlands, where you may want to dismount and walk the wooden boardwalks around the wet meadows, looking for black-tailed godwits, lapwings and nesting herons. Tip: In the opening miles, look out across the water to spot the tumbledown remains of Flint Castle on the opposite shore.
Afan Valley Trail (6 miles) Start: Port Talbot Parkway train station Finish: Afan Forest Park visitor centre This route climbs through the steep slopes and Alpine-like forests known locally as ‘Little Switzerland’. The entire ride is lovely, but the highlight for me was after crossing the railway viaduct at Pontrhydyfen when I entered Afan Forest Park. The trees and cycle trails are enchanting (it’s a popular spot among mountain bikers) and you may spot tree creepers, nuthatches and finches within the forest or buzzards circling above the treetops. Tip: Make time for coffee and cake at Trailhead Café in Afan Forest Park visitor centre. It suddenly appears on the hillside like a welcoming Swiss mountain lodge at the end of your ride.
Sgroliwch i lawr am y fersiwn Saesneg / Scroll down for the English version
I ddathlu lansio Rhoi Cartref i Fyd Natur yng Nghaerdydd, project blaenllaw RSPB Cymru mewn partneriaeth â Chyngor Dinas Caerdydd, gallwch Ail-wylltio eich welis gartref drwy ddilyn ein ‘Cyngor Welis’ isod.
Bydd rhain yn eich helpu i ail-wylltio eich hen wellingtons er mwyn denu bywyd gwyllt. Rhannwch eich Welfis efo ni (lluniau ohonoch chi yn ail-wylltio eich welis!) @rspbcymru drwy ddefnyddio #caerdyddgwyllt.
Neu gallwch chi ymuno a ni mewn digwyddiadau Ail-wylltio eich Welis! yng Nghaerdydd, gweler y rhestr isod am ddigwyddiad ar bwys chi. Bydd pridd, hadau blodau gwyllt ac offer garddio ar gael yn holl ddigwyddiadau Ail-wylltio eich Welis! Anogir pobl i ddim ond dod â hen bâr o welingtons.
Am fwy o wybodaeth ynglŷn â Rhoi Cartref i Fyd Natur yng Nghaerdydd a lansio’r prosiect newydd cyffrous hwn dilynwch @rspbcymru neu ewch i www.facebook.com/RSPBCymru
Re-wild your wellies and give nature a home in Cardiff
If you wan to celebrate the launch of Giving Nature a Home in Cardiff, RSPB Cymru’s flagship project in partnership with the City of Cardiff Council, you can Re-wild your Wellies at home by following the step-by-step Welly Wisdoms below.
The tips will help you plant-out old wellingtons to attract wildlife. Please share your Welfies too (images of you re-wilding your wellies!) to @rspbcymru using #wildcardiff.
If you want to join us at Re-wild your Wellies events in Cardiff, have a look at the below list and find an event near you. Soil, wildflower seeds and gardening tools will be available at all Re-wild your Wellies! events. Residents are encouraged just to bring along an old pair of wellies.
For more information about Giving Nature a Home in Cardiff and the launch of this exciting new project follow @rspbcymru or visit www.facebook.com/RSPBCymru