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Watch the birdie: it’s the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch

by Holly Ellyatt

credit: RSPB Images - John Bridges

credit: RSPB Images - John Bridges

Grab some seeds and berries, find a perch, maybe tweet a bit and you’re ready for the RSPB’s annual Big Garden Birdwatch, which is taking place this weekend.

For over 30 years, the RSPB has invited the public to take part in the event by spending an hour recording the birds that visit their garden or local park. Last year, more than 600,000 people got involved, helping to create a clear picture of how different garden birds are faring across the UK.

Tim Webb, a spokesman for the RSPB, says results from city gardens give a clear indication of the changing nature of urban birdlife.

“Looking back over the last five to ten years, there are four clear trends in London. House sparrows, starlings and blackbirds are on a downward trajectory but goldfinches are on the rise. Recent cold winters have driven many species, such as redwing and fieldfare, into our towns and cities. They were desperately looking for food as their normal supplies were either buried or locked away in the snow and ice.”

This year the mild weather is encouraging many birds to stay in the countryside, but Tim says unusual sightings are still possible.

“In previous years, pheasants, puffins and red kites have been spotted in the capital”, Tim notes. “I’ve noticed an increase in black-headed gulls as I’ve been cycling through London in the past couple of weeks. They may be more prominent this year. London also has a sizeable population of naturalised ring-necked parakeets, so these bright green, noisy birds may well appear in gardens. Just outside London, there have been reports of albino sparrows and in the past we’ve even had reports of an albino robin around Hampstead Heath.”

The spring-like weather might also encourage early breeding activities so the RSPB is recommending that people keep an eye on nest boxes as well as feeders.

Tim encourages city gardeners to get involved and says that even a small number of sightings can be significant. “What is not seen is just as important. So, even if people only record three house sparrows over the course of their Birdwatch hour, we’d like to hear about it.”

The results will be published in March.

For more information on the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch, click here.

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