RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch results: More fieldfares for Orkney and a waxwing winter for Scotland

Kirsty Nutt

Wednesday 5 April 2017

Results are in for the 2017 RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch. Close to a million people across the UK, including 530 in Orkney, joined in the world's largest garden wildlife survey for its 38th year and witnessed some exciting and unusual visitors.

The event held over the last weekend in January, and for the very first time extended to three days, revealed fieldfares rising through the top 20 ranks in Orkney from 20th place in 2016 to 16th this year. While the top five in Orkney - starling, house sparrow, blackbird, collared dove and greenfinch - remained the same as in 2016, fieldfares were spotted in a third more gardens and robins in nearly 20% more gardens this year.

Weather conditions leading up to the Birdwatch meant that this year gardens were treated to a jump in the number of visits from migrant birds, such as fieldfares, as the sub-zero temperatures on the continent forced them to go in search of milder conditions. Some robins also migrate from the continent to spend the winter in our gardens and the average number of robins seen visiting gardens across the UK this year was at its highest level since 1986.

Across Scotland, gardens received a range of different visitors, including fieldfares and redwings, but there was an explosion in the number of recorded sightings of waxwings. These attractive looking birds are regular visitors to Scotland over winter but every seven to eight years they flock in here in much higher numbers when the berry crop fails in their native Scandinavia. Known as an 'irruption', results showed that waxwings were seen in around nine times more gardens in 2017 compared to previous years in Scotland.

Keith Morton, Species Policy Officer at RSPB Scotland said: "The wildlife we see around where we live such as a blackbird singing from a rooftop or a robin perched in a tree is often one of the first experiences we have with nature. Having over 35,000 people in Scotland spend an hour taking part in Big Garden Birdwatch is fantastic and an indication of how much people enjoy seeing the wildlife that lives around them. Using the results from the 626,184 birds counted allows us to create a snapshot of how our garden birds are doing now, and compared to previous years.

House sparrows remained at the top of the Scottish Birdwatch results, a position they have held since 2012. Starlings climbed up one place to second, pushing chaffinches down to third, and blackbirds and blue tits rounded off the Scottish top five for 2017.

Keith continued: "Our gardens and open spaces are invaluable resources for birds throughout the year. Wildlife-friendly gardens can provide birds, and other wildlife such as insects, amphibians and mammals, with places for them to eat, shelter, and bring up their young. Making your garden wildlife-friendly is a great way to help the garden birds we all love to see throughout the year as well as some of our more unusual visitors. Once birds know where a reliable source of food and shelter is to be found they will keep coming back to it which means you will be able to enjoy seeing them a lot more."

The accompanying RSPB Big School's Birdwatch survey saw over 6,300 school children in Scotland spend an hour in nature counting birds. Blackbird remained the most common playground visitor followed by carrion crow and starling. In Orkney, RSPB Scotland's Outdoor Learning Officer Lindsey Taylor visited schools to carry out supporting activities with nearly 600 pupils, though which the children learned about their local birdlife and made fat ball feeders to attract birds into the school grounds.

Big Garden Birdwatch and Big Schools' Birdwatch are a part of the RSPB Giving Nature a Home campaign, aimed at tackling the house crisis facing the UK's threatened wildlife. The charity is asking people to provide a place for wildlife in their gardens out outdoor spaces.

For more information about the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch results - www.rspb.org.uk/birdwatch

Photographs:

Photographs are available by clicking on the following link and using the log in details:

http://www.rspb-images.com/respages/storysetsignon.aspx?key=67c7a321-8116-4b99-bfe0-b670f36e88c6

Username: Scotland

Password: Birdwatch

Editor's notes:

1. RSPB Scotland is part of the RSPB, 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.

2. 2017 Big Garden Birdwatch top 20 results for Orkney: rspb.org.uk/birdwatch

Rank

Species

Average per garden

% of gardens species recorded in 2017

1

Starling

16.7

87.0

2

House sparrow

14.1

84.2

3

Blackbird

3.0

88.2

4

Collared dove

1.8

44.1

5

Greenfinch

1.7

37.1

6

Woodpigeon

1.4

36.6

7

Rook

0.9

20.7

8

Robin

0.8

67.6

9

Chaffinch

0.7

18.6

10

Feral pigeon

0.7

21.1

11

Goldfinch

0.5

4.9

12

Wren

0.5

46.6

13

Dunnock

0.5

28.4

14

Pheasant

0.4

17.2

15

Common gull

0.2

10.3

16

Fieldfare

0.2

1.7

17

Jackdaw

0.2

6.9

18

Sparrowhawk

0.2

15.5

19

Carrion crow/Hooded crow

0.1

6.9

20

Herring gull

0.1

3.5

3. 2017 Big Garden Birdwatch top 20 results for Scotland: rspb.org.uk/birdwatch

Rank

Species

Change in rank 2016-2017

Average per garden

Average per garden% change 2016 - 2017

% of gardens species recorded in 2017

% of gardens species recorded in change 2016-2017

1

House sparrow

0

6.2

1.6

75.9

3.9

2

Starling

1

4.2

-1.5

50.5

4.5

3

Chaffinch

-1

3.3

-29.5

59.9

-8.1

4

Blackbird

0

2.8

0.0

90.5

-0.4

5

Blue tit

0

2.8

-1.7

80.0

2.0

6

Woodpigeon

0

2.0

10.4

68.2

8.4

7

Great tit

0

1.6

-6.5

60.1

-0.3

8

Robin

0

1.6

1.4

92.2

0.8

9

Goldfinch

0

1.6

1.9

30.3

6.0

10

Coal tit

0

1.3

2.1

50.9

1.8

11

Feral pigeon

1

1.1

17.5

22.6

-7.6

12

Dunnock

-1

1.0

2.2

49.6

-0.3

13

Magpie

3

0.9

14.2

39.0

165.9

14

Long tailed tit

3

0.9

12.2

17.6

-48.4

15

Collared dove

0

0.9

-0.3

34.0

1.5

16

Carrion crow/Hooded crow

-2

0.9

-3.6

31.0

-3.7

17

Jackdaw

-4

0.8

-6.1

23.9

17.2

18

Greenfinch

0

0.6

-23.3

21.0

-12.1

19

Common gull

0

0.4

-0.5

9.7

-8.2

20

Rook

0

0.3

-8.6

9.9

9.7

4. RSPB's Big Garden Birdwatch survey is the largest citizen science survey in the UK and is a part of the RSPB's Centre for Conservation Science. The centre was set up with the aim of finding practical solutions to the most pressing conservation problems, whether it's working out how to save a species on the verge of extinction or restoring a destroyed rainforest.

5. The RSPB offers everything to easily create a haven for wildlife in your garden. All our expertise has been used to develop the very best food and homes, using sustainable materials whenever possible. All the profits from our shop go towards helping birds and wildlife. Browse below, or view our online shop for our full range of products. rspb.org.uk/shop

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