World’s biggest wildlife survey turns 30!
Last weekend more than three million Big Garden Birdwatch hours were clocked up as the RSPB (BirdLife in the UK) marked 30 years of the event.
With up to half a million people taking part each year, the survey has made a major contribution to tracking garden bird numbers over the winter.
Over the last 30 years, Big Garden Birdwatch has highlighted the winners and losers in the garden bird world. It was first to alert the RSPB to massive declines in Song Thrush Turdus philomelos numbers. The Song Thrush was a firm fixture in the top 10 in 1979. In 2008, its numbers were less than half those recorded in 1979, plummeting to 22nd in the rankings.
Dr Mark Avery, the RSPB’s Director of Conservation, said: “As well as contributing to our understanding of the changes in bird numbers, Big Garden Birdwatch does a fantastic job of inspiring adults and children about nature. It allows hundreds of thousands of people each year to enjoy wildlife in their own gardens and that’s priceless”.
More recently, through the Big Garden Birdwatch, the RSPB has seen the effects of climate change. Dr Avery added: “There’s no denying that the timing of our seasons is changing. Despite the recent cold spell, UK winters are significantly warmer than they were 30 years ago. Through the Big Garden Birdwatch we can all see the effect this is having on the birds in our gardens, even if we’re unable to see the wider effects with our own eyes".
"Garden Birdwatch allows hundreds of thousands of people each year to enjoy wildlife in their own gardens and that’s priceless” —Mark Avery, RSPB’s Director of Conservation
“In the last five years, birds such as Blackcap Sylvia atricapilla have been seen more often. Milder winter temperatures in the UK mean these birds aren’t bothering to fly south. It would have been virtually unheard of to see these in UK gardens 30 years ago when the birdwatch first started”.
Sarah Kelly, the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch co-ordinator, said: “The great thing about Big Garden Birdwatch is you never know what you’re going to see – I guess that’s exciting and frustrating in equal measures!”
“Another thing which makes it so popular is that anyone can do it. You don't need to be an expert, all you needed was a pen and paper.”
"The event has proved to be a great success with people from all over Finland" —Lauri Hanninen, BirdLife Finland’s Garden Birdwatch Coordinator
The Garden Birdwatch has been a great success in Finland too, where it was held over the same weekend. Finland's President Tarja Halonen invited BirdLife Finland (BirdLife in Finland) staff to count the birds in her own garden and at the end of the day 17 species were recorded. "The event gets bigger every year and has proved to be a great success with people from all over Finland", said Lauri Hanninen, BirdLife Finland’s Garden Birdwatch Coordinator. "This year's event also received a lot of media interest," he added.
Over the weekend, according to the estimate from the preliminary results, around 15,000 people participated, counting more than 350,000 birds in over 10,000 gardens.
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Credits: RSPB (BirdLife in UK); BirdLife Finland (BirdLife in Finland)