RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch 2017 is here!

Lauren Shannon

Friday 27 January 2017

Count the wildlife that's counting on you

More than half a million people across the UK are expected to watch and count their garden birds for this year's Big Garden Birdwatch, organised by the RSPB. To celebrate, there is a special event at RSPB Scotland Loch Leven on Saturday 28 January.

At the popular local nature reserve's event, people can get up close to wild garden birds with a ringing demonstration from the Tay Ringing Group at 10 am and 12 pm. Visitors can also have a go at making their own nestbox to take home between 1 and 3 pm and find out all about how to attract birds and other wildlife into the garden.

Big Garden Birdwatch is the world's largest garden wildlife survey. Now in its 38th year, it takes place on 28, 29 and 30 January 2017. People are asked to spend just one hour watching and recording the birds in their garden or local public space, then send their results to the RSPB. Last year across Scotland, over 36,000 people joined in counting 626,335 feathered visitors over the weekend.

In Perth and Kinross last year, it was all change in the top three compared to 2015, with chaffinches pipping house sparrows to the top spot and blue tits knocking blackbirds out of the top three and down to fourth. Great tits, coal tits and long-tailed tits all rose through the rankings too. On a UK-level, house sparrow was followed by starling in second spot and blue tit in third and long-tailed tit flew into the top 10 for the first time in eight years. However the song thrush, once a common garden visitor, experienced another drop, revealing a decline of 70 per cent since the Birdwatch began.

In our increasingly urban world, ensuring there is still room for wildlife is key to the survival of many familiar species. RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch provides valuable information about the wildlife using our gardens in winter, enabling the RSPB to monitor trends and declines. It is also a chance to take time to enjoy the nature on our doorsteps.

In response to demand, for the first time this year the Birdwatch will take place over three days, including the Monday, giving workers the opportunity to take a screen break and participate from their office gardens.

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 faring. 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 winged garden visitors, the RSPB is once again asking participants to log some of the other wildlife they have seen throughout the year, such as hedgehogs, foxes and moles. With the survey taking place across the whole of the UK there are some species on the other wildlife list that are not found in Scotland, such as grass snakes and stag beetles, but reports of the other wildlife on this list visiting people's gardens or public spaces are important.

Daniel added: "Our wildlife is facing a tough time. 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."

David Wembridge, Mammal Surveys Co-ordinator, People's Trust for Endangered Species, said: "Mammals are a less showy lot than birds, but their presence in gardens is as important a measure of the natural value of these green spaces. Recording wildlife, in surveys like Big Garden Birdwatch, gives us a connection to our wild neighbours, particularly those we might overlook."

To take part in Big Garden Birdwatch 2017, people can download a free Big Garden Birdwatch pack at rspb.org.uk/birdwatch. Results will be published in March 2017.

The parallel event, Big Schools' Birdwatch takes place during the first half of spring term, 3 January - 17 February 2017. Further information can be found at rspb.org.uk/schoolswatch

For more information about RSPB Scotland Loch Leven's event, please contact the reserve on 01577 862355. The ringing demonstration may be cancelled in poor weather due to bird welfare. Building a nestbox to take home will cost £8.

Photographs:

To download a selection of images relevant to this press release, please click on the hyperlink below and then enter the user name and password when prompted.

http://www.rspb-images.com/respages/storysetsignon.aspx?key=707a4e84-0b30-4c62-91c9-ccf7c98e06b8

User Name: garden Password: birdwatch

Editor's notes:

1. 2016 Perth and Kinross Big Garden Birdwatch results:

Species

Mean

Rank

% gardens

Chaffinch

6.20

1

79.1

House sparrow

5.71

2

72.8

Blue tit

3.71

3

87.8

Blackbird

3.26

4

93.1

Starling

2.75

5

40.3

Woodpigeon

2.10

6

70.3

Great tit

2.05

7

68.9

Robin

1.74

8

93.8

Coal tit

1.65

9

62.0

Goldfinch

1.41

10

27.6

Long-tailed tit

1.08

11

18.2

Dunnock

1.04

12

54.0

Jackdaw

0.94

13

24.9

Collared dove

0.86

14

33.9

Greenfinch

0.81

15

27.1

Carrion crow

0.72

16

29.4

Pheasant

0.46

17

20.3

Great spotted woodpecker

0.37

18

28.5

Feral pigeon

0.32

19

11.3

Rook

0.32

20

10.4

2016 UK Big Garden Birdwatch results:

Rank

Species

Average per garden

% of gardens species found in 2016

% average per garden change since 1979

1

House sparrow

4.2

61.6

-57.8

2

Starling

2.9

39

-80.8

3

Blue tit

2.8

78.9

+15.2

4

Blackbird

2.5

88.3

-38.2

5

Woodpigeon

2.3

76.9

+1051.5

6

Goldfinch

1.7

31.5

NA

7

Chaffinch

1.6

42.7

-45.9

8

Great tit

1.6

59.6

+78.4

9

Robin

1.4

84

-29.9

10

Long-tailed tit

1.2

26.7

NA

11

Collared dove

1.1

44.1

+305

12

Magpie

1.1

52.1

+172.7

13

Dunnock

0.9

45.9

NA

14

Jackdaw

0.7

19.5

NA

15

Coal tit

0.7

34.8

+272.9

16

Carrion crow

0.6

24.3

NA

17

Feral pigeon

0.6

16.2

NA

18

Greenfinch

0.6

19.9

-44.3

19

Common gull

0.3

8.3

NA

20

Wren

0.3

26.8

NA

2. Great news for Big Garden Birdwatch 2017: in response to many requests received over the years we will be trialling extending the weekend to include Monday 30th January. We're hoping this will allow even more people to take part and spend an hour counting the birds in their park or garden, adding to the snapshot of how they are doing. Each year we are asked whether people can take part on the Monday if they are busy over the weekend. From a science perspective, the addition of an extra day, will still provide a 'sample' of the birds visiting our gardens at that time of year. The important thing is that the general period of the survey itself has remained the same, and there's no reason that the number of birds recorded on a Monday will be any different to those at the weekend. The extra day should provide a chance for more people to take part adding even more data for analysis.

3. In 2014, as a new part of the Big Garden Birdwatch, the RSPB asked participants to tell us about some of the other animals in their garden. This year we're asking people to look for: fox, grass snake, hedgehog, slow worm, stoat, stag beetle, great crested newt and mole. Participants probably won't see these creatures during their hour watching - since hedgehogs, grass snakes and slow worms should be hibernating now. And not all on the list are found everywhere in the UK. But we'd like to know if any have visited their garden or local park in the last year and, if so, how often. The RSPB will share the non-bird results with Amphibian & Reptile Conservation (ARC), People's Trust for Endangered Species (PTES) and The Mammal Society to add to their species databases.

4. Big Garden Birdwatch is part of RSPB's Giving Nature a Home campaign, aimed at tackling the housing crisis facing the UK's wildlife. Gardens provide invaluable resources for many species, especially in urban areas where natural habitats are disappearing. The RSPB is asking people to invite wildlife into their own gardens, balconies and outside spaces - whether by putting up a nest box for birds, creating a pond for frogs and newts or planting a window box for bees. You can create your own personal plan and give nature a home near you at rspb.org.uk/myplan

5. The RSPB is the UK's largest nature conservation charity, inspiring everyone to give nature a home. Together with our partners, we protect threatened birds and wildlife so our towns, coast and countryside will teem with life once again. We play a leading role in BirdLife International, a worldwide partnership of nature conservation organisations.

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) is a registered charity. In England and Wales, no: 207076. In Scotland, no: SC037654.

Tagged with: Topic: Big Garden Birdwatch