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Britain's first Olympic event of the year is almost here - the 2012 Big Garden Birdwatch!

Last modified: 17 January 2012

Male bullfinch on frosty branch eating guelder rose berries

The Big Garden Birdwatch is one of the first indicators to show how UK birds have fared during the previous breeding season and winter.

As Britain prepares for London 2012, the RSPB is preparing for its own Olympic event in the form of its annual Big Garden Birdwatch (28-29 January).

Thankfully, you don’t need to be an athlete to join in; all you’ll need is a pen and paper, a comfy seat, one hour of your time and, preferably, a nice hot cuppa!

Following the success of last year’s Big Garden Birdwatch when over 600,000 people took part nationally, the RSPB is appealing for more sets of eyes in East Riding than ever before to step up for nature and help form a picture of the fortunes of garden favourites in the recent topsy turvy weather.

Carolyn Jarvis, The RSPB’s People Engagement Manager for Northern England, says: “Taking part in Big Garden Birdwatch not only helps the RSPB track the ups and down of garden birds, but it gives participants the perfect excuse to sit down with a cup of tea and enjoy the wildlife that they share their outside space with.

“You’ll be a part of the biggest garden bird event in the world and you won’t even have to leave the warmth of your armchair!”

Recent harsh winters have seen some garden bird populations in East Riding drop, only to make a comeback after a good breeding season the following year.

Last year, some of the UK’s smallest garden birds bounced back, and the wildlife charity wants to know whether they have managed to maintain their numbers.

Sightings of the UK’s smallest birds goldcrests, doubled in East Riding while both long tailed tits and coal tits went up by two-thirds.

And many people in East Riding were also lucky enough to see waxwings with an influx of the striking birds to the UK from Scandinavia known as a ‘waxwing winter.’

The Big Garden Birdwatch is one of the first indicators to show how UK birds have fared during the previous breeding season and winter. With over half a million people taking part each year and over thirty years worth of data the results give an early indication of garden bird trends.

Carolyn Jarvis added: “The RSPB keeps a watchful eye out for new and emerging trends from Big Garden Birdwatch results, which helped confirm that there was an alarming decline in birds like the house sparrow, starling and song thrush.

“It’s important that we keep a close eye on how our birds are faring, like the house sparrow for example. With so many people stepping up and taking part in Big Garden Birdwatch, if a pattern emerges, we take it seriously. Half a million people can’t be wrong and that’s why the survey is so important.”

Celebrating this year’s Big Garden Birdwatch, RSPB Bempton Cliffs is hosting an event about the world’s biggest wildlife survey.

From 10am to 3pm on 28 and 29 January, staff and volunteers will be on hand in the reserve’s bird feeding station to answer questions about identifying birds in your garden and show you how you can take part in the survey.

Visitors can also enter a quiz to see how many of the top 20 birds from last year they can recognise, as well as venture out on a guided walk to identify the garden birds who call Bempton Cliffs home. 

All visitors can pick up free bird ID charts and survey form and they can enjoy the chance to relax with a hot cuppa and some retail therapy in the onsite shop.  Call 01262 851179 for more information.

To step up for nature and take part in the Big Garden Birdwatch, simply spend one hour over the weekend of 28-29 January, counting the birds in your garden or local park, and record the highest number of each bird species seen at any one time. You can submit your results online at from 28 January.

To pre-register for the Big Garden Birdwatch and request a free pack visit: or call 0300 456 8330.


How you can help

Are you ready for Big Garden Birdwatch?