|Chaffinch - on the up|
On an overcast Sunday morning in late-January, I organised a RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch event in my local woodland nature reserve. Myself and another spotter recorded the highest number of birds we saw in our patch over the course of an hour and submitted the results online. Apparently an incredible 600,000 others also took part, counting over 10 million birds in the process. Today the results of this fascinating nationwide event were announced.
The RSPB website provides a good summary of the findings and highlights in particular the recovery of small garden birds after the freezing winter of 2009-10. Success stories include the tiny Goldcrest (the smallest bird in the UK) which saw a 103% increase in records received, Long-tailed Tit (+32%) and Treecreeper, a bird I was pleased to record on our survey (+113%). This increase suggests that favourable conditions last spring meant many birds enjoyed a successful breeding season. It also appears that many birds were able to survive the widespread, prolonged snow events this winter due to the availability of food.
A look at the nationwide results reveals that House Sparrows topped the chart with an average of 4.16 birds appearing in 64.49% of gardens and Blackbirds came in at number 3 with an average of 3.26 birds appearing in 95% of gardens! Here's what Londoners were seeing (Greater London top 20):
% of gardens
Ring Necked Parakeet
It's pleasing to see House Sparrows in the top 5 since this is not a bird I see regularly in my area of south east London. Ring Necked Parakeets inevitably make an appearance and it would be interesting to see how these numbers compare to previous years. In truth, only so much value can be placed on this survey but it is undoubtedly a useful method of identifying trends.
For me its real value lies in its ability to stimulate people's interest in their surroundings. Gardens have an enormous role to play in the success of wildlife populations in the UK and it is public awareness, knowledge and passion that represent the best tools for addressing the challenges that our garden birds (and thus our environment) face. The Big Garden Birdwatch is the beginning, lets not forget to look over the fence at what is happening elsewhere.