The world’s largest garden wildlife survey returns next week
Thousands of people across Scotland will celebrate their love of nature and unite to watch and count the country’s garden birds over the last weekend in January for the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch.
Over the past year, we’ve seen how important the natural world is to our mental health and wellbeing. There has been a surge in interest in the nature on our doorsteps and many people have come to rely on garden birds to bring joy and comfort in these unsettling times. A ScotPulse survey in July 2020 found 76% of respondents said they had become more aware of nature during lockdown.
This year’s event takes place on 29, 30 and 31 January. The public is asked to spend just one hour watching and recording the birds from their garden, balcony or window, then send their results to the RSPB. Close to half-a-million people join in the Birdwatch every year across the UK.
Just one hour every year, for the last four decades, has made the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch the largest garden wildlife citizen science project. Now in its 42nd year, 144 million birds have been counted giving the RSPB an astonishing amount of insight into how our wildlife is faring.
Anne McCall, director of RSPB Scotland, said: “I am delighted that more people than ever have signed up for this year’s Big Garden Birdwatch so far. Throughout the pandemic, we’ve seen just how important our connection to nature is.
"With more time spent in our homes and local areas noticing the wildlife around us, many of us have found a renewed appreciation for nature locally.I would encourage everyone who can to take part in Big Garden Birdwatch, not only for the phenomenal amount of data it produces, but also to take some time really focussing on the little things, to relax and to enjoy the benefits of spending time watching nature.”
Keith Morton, senior species policy officer, said: “The data you submit from your Big Garden Birdwatch helps us create a picture of how bird populations in Scotland are faring, which then informs the work we do to protect those species most at risk.
"Last year almost 18,000 households in Scotland counted their garden birds for an hour, which makes for a massive amount of data. Could you give an hour of your time this year to get involved? Every submission is important, even if you don’t see a single bird, and enjoying nature is just as important as counting it.”
For four decades, Big Garden Birdwatch has highlighted who is thriving and who is struggling in the garden bird world. The house sparrow remained at the top of the Big Garden Birdwatch rankings as the most commonly seen garden bird, visiting 70% of Scottish gardens in 2020. Starling held down the second spot once more, with the chaffinch completing the top three. Reports of long-tailed tits in gardens in Scotland were up in 2020, boosting them into the top 10 for Scotland, being seen in 20% of gardens.
While house sparrows and starlings may be the UK’s most commonly sighted birds, a closer look at Big Garden Birdwatch data shows that numbers have in fact dropped dramatically since the Birdwatch began in 1979. House sparrows are down 53% while starlings are down 80%. It’s a pattern echoed by two more garden favourites, with blackbirds and robins down 46% and 32% respectively.
To take part in the Big Garden Birdwatch 2021, watch the birds you can see from your home for one hour at some point over the three days. Only count the birds that land, not those flying over. Record the highest number of each bird species you see at any one time – not the total you see in the hour.
The parallel event RSPB Big Schools’ Birdwatch takes place during the first half of spring term, 6 January – 21 February . This year, it celebrates its 20th anniversary of connecting children with nature in their school grounds. Since its launch, over a million school children and teachers have taken part. Further information can be found at www.rspb.org.uk/schoolswatch
To download your free Big Garden Birdwatch guide, which includes a bird identification chart, top tips for your birdwatch, RSPB shop voucher, plus advice on how to help you attract wildlife to your garden visit www.rspb.org.uk/birdwatch .