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Big garden watch

Freezing temperatures across the East have been driving more birds into gardens in their search for food. It could mean bumper numbers of garden birds seen in the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch this weekend.

People across the region will be taking part in the World’s biggest wildlife survey at home and in local parks on Saturday 26 and Sunday 27 January.

Almost 600,000 people across the UK (nearly 80,000 in East Anglia), including 90,000 pupils and teachers at schools, took part in the Birdwatch last year counting more than 9 million birds between them.

Everyone can join in by spending just one hour at any time over Big Garden Birdwatch weekend noting the highest number of each bird species seen in their gardens or local park at any one time then submitting the results to the RSPB. Schoolchildren and teachers will be doing the same in their schoolgrounds as part of Big Schools’ Birdwatch from 21 January to 1 February.

Paul Forecast, RSPB Director in the East, said; ‘No matter where people take part, whether at home with the family, with classmates at school or with friends in the beer garden of the local pub, we’re joining forces to gather vital information about some of our most familiar garden birds. It’s a great way to get to know the creatures that live around us, and that’s especially important for children. Feeding garden birds can often be a child’s first encounter with wildlife and can spark a lifelong interest in nature.”

Now in its 34th year, the Birdwatch has helped to highlight some dramatic declines in UK garden birds. In the first survey in 1979, an average of 15 starlings were seen per garden, but that fell to an average of just three starlings per garden in 2012, the lowest level ever. House sparrow numbers have fallen by two thirds over the lifetime of the survey too.

Paul continues; ‘The declines of birds like starlings and sparrows over the last 30 years or so have been alarming, but Big Garden Birdwatch has helped us find out more about their numbers and distribution across UK gardens, and that has been the first step in helping to put things right.’

Some bird species have fared considerably better over the years. Sightings of popular species like blue tits, great tits and coal tits in gardens have increased since 1979. Goldfinches, which were absent from the Big Garden Birdwatch top 15 in the early years, have featured regularly as a top 15 species since 2004.

Visit www.rspb.org.uk/birdwatch and www.rspb.org.uk/schoolswatch to find out how to take part at home or at school.

 

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