Welsh primary schools set to count the nation’s birds

Eleri Wynne

Friday 6 January 2017

Big Schools' Birdwatch, 3 January - 17 February 2017

Thousands of schoolchildren across Wales will be swapping their books for binoculars this term to take part in the UK's biggest schools wildlife survey.

The RSPB's Big Schools' Birdwatch 2017 takes place during the first half of the spring term and helps children discover the wonderful wildlife they share their school grounds with, whilst providing a helpful insight into which species are thriving or declining.

According to research conducted by the RSPB2, one in five children are disconnected from nature. Big Schools' Birdwatch aims to inspire children to care about the natural world around them in the hope they'll want to help protect it in future.

Last year almost 100,000 pupils and teachers from schools all across the UK took part by counting the birds that visited their school grounds, and it is hoped even more will take part this year.

Over the years, more than 70 different species have been recorded in school grounds, ranging from magpies and blue tits, to red kites and buzzards. In Wales the blackbird remained the most common playground visitor in 2016, with house sparrows holding onto the second spot and starlings coming in third5.

Since its launch in 2002, the Big Schools' Birdwatch has provided many opportunities for children and teachers to discover how to give nature a home in their school grounds. Many schools prepare for the event in advance by putting up feeders and nestboxes or making bird cakes. Seeing and counting the birds coming to their feeders during the Big Schools Birdwatch is the perfect reward for their efforts.

Sarah Mitchell, RSPB Cymru Education, Families and Youth Officer, said: "We hope the excitement and anticipation of their wildlife encounter during Big Schools' Birdwatch will inspire children to get out and experience more of the natural world around them.

"With children becoming increasingly disconnected to nature, which is often linked to poorer physical and mental health, we want to provide young people with as many opportunities as possible to enjoy and understand wildlife, and most importantly, have fun."

The Big Schools' Birdwatch is the school version of the Big Garden Birdwatch - the world's biggest garden wildlife survey aimed at families and individuals which takes place over three days on 28, 29 and 30 January 2017. Further information can be found on the RSPB website at rspb.org.uk/birdwatch

To register to take part in the 2017 RSPB Big Schools' Birdwatch, please visit rspb.org.uk/schoolswatch.

1. 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 organizations www.rspb.org.uk

2. A three-year research project, undertaken by the RSPB - reported in Connecting with Nature - reveals how connected to nature children are across the UK. The national results show that currently only 21 per cent of 8-12 year olds have a connection to nature level that the RSPB considers a realistic and achievable target for all children. The full report, and methodological report from the University of Essex, are available to download from rspb.org.uk/connectionmeasure

3. The Big Schools' Birdwatch takes just one hour and teachers can pick any day during the first half of spring term to take part. It works across a wide age and ability range and there's plenty of flexibility to run it as simply as teachers would like either as the centrepiece of cross-curricular studies, project work, or a way to improve their school grounds.

4. Big Schools' Birdwatch and Big Garden Birdwatch are 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 school grounds, their own garden or outside spaces.

5. 2016 Big Schools' Birdwatch Wales results

2016 Rank

Species

2016 UK average per school

2016 UK % of schools

1

Black bird

5.90

81.6

2

House sparrow

5.03

66.0

3

Starling

4.88

53.4

4

Jackdaw

3.71

54.4

5

Magpie

3.47

74.8

6

Blue tit

3.44

61.2

7

Carrion crow

3.15

62.1

8

Black headed gull

3.11

41.7

9

Herring gull

2.90

43.7

10

Woodpigeon

2.15

53.4

11

Robin

2.12

78.6

12

Chaffinch

1.40

35.0

13

Feral pigeon

1.39

20.4

14

Great tit

1.32

40.8

15

Long tailed tit

0.88

14.6

16

Coal tit

0.87

27.2

17

Collared dove

0.70

25.2

18

Dunnock

0.51

14.6

19

Rook

0.46

7.8

20

Wren

0.45

29.1

6. The RSPB's Giving Nature a Home campaign is 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 school grounds, own gardens and outside spaces - whether it's putting up a nest box for birds, creating a pond for frogs and toads or building a home for a hedgehog. You can create your own personal plan and give nature a home near you at rspb.org.uk/myplan

Tagged with: Country: Wales Topic: Big Garden Birdwatch