You will find out about all the exciting stuff going on with the RSPB in the east of the UK. We cover our sites in the following counties: Norfolk, Suffolk, Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Essex, and some of our great Lincolnshire ones. So if you are if you have never heard of the Strumpshaws and Snettishams or Stour Estuary or Sutton Fens here is you chance.
Can you believe that #BigGardenBirdwatch is only 4 days away! Following on from last week's countdown, we're now taking a look at some familiar faces that made the top 5 in the Big Garden Birdwatch charts here in the east last year. If you haven't downloaded your free Big Garden Birdwatch pack yet, there's still plenty of time, just visit rspb.org.uk/birdwatch
5. Down two places, it's the blue tit - a colourful mix of blue, yellow, white and green makes the blue tit one of our most attractive and most recognisable garden visitors. In winter, family flocks join up with other tits as they search for food. A garden with four or five blue tits at a feeder at any one time may be feeding 20 or more.
Blue tits dropped two places in the 2017 Big Garden Birdwatch charts after a 16% downturn in sightings. Changes in weather during breeding seasons can have a big impact on these small birds.
2016’s prolonged wet spell meant there were fewer caterpillars about for feeding their young. It’s likely that this led to fewer younger birds surviving than usual, meaning there were fewer seen in gardens.
However, long-term trends are slightly less worrying, with a small 2% decrease in the region since 2007.
4. Up one place at number four is the woodpigeon - the UK's largest and commonest pigeon. It is largely grey with a white neck patch and white wing patches, clearly visible in flight. Although shy in the countryside it can be tame and approachable in towns and cities. Its cooing call is a familiar sound in woodlands as is the loud clatter of its wings when it flies away.
Woodpigeons have successfully made the most of our feeders and tables over the last ten years, increasing by an impressive 56% across the east, and a whopping 1060% across the UK over thirty years! When times are tough in the wider countryside, woodpigeons will happily munch on whatever seeds are going in our gardens.
3. Another climber, taking the number three spot is the blackbird - males live up to their name but, confusingly, females are brown often with spots and streaks on their breasts. The bright orange-yellow beak and eye-ring make adult male blackbirds striking.
These familiar garden visitors have soared by 38% in the region since 2007, and are now the region’s (and the UK’s) most widespread bird, having been seen in 96% of our gardens. Gardeners can help this success to continue by avoiding the use of garden chemicals, and by planting shrubs that provide blackbirds with caterpillars, berries, or both.
2. Holding on to second place is the starling - at a distance starlings look black, but when you see them closer they are very glossy with a sheen of purples and greens. Their flight is fast and direct and they walk and run confidently on the ground.
However, despite being the second most seen bird in our gardens, the drop in starlings over the last 30 years is somewhat more depressing.
A 79% reduction in numbers nationally since 1979, and a 22% decline in the region since 2007, are largely undetermined. It is known though, that starlings are heavily dependent on soil invertebrates like earthworms and leatherjackets, and it is possible this food supply has either declined or perhaps become less available during dry summers.
1. Another non-mover in at number 1, it's the house sparrow - noisy and gregarious little birds, house sparrows are cheerful exploiters of man’s rubbish and wastefulness, having managed to colonise most of the wild: the ultimate avian opportunist perhaps.
However, since 1979, the house sparrow population has decreased by 57% since 1979. Here in the east, the decline has not been so severe with a decrease of 7% since 2007.
Possible reasons for this decline include a reduction in the availability of their preferred foods, increased levels of pollution, loss of suitable nesting sites, increased prevalence of disease, and increased levels of predation. However, the exact causes of these rapid declines remain unclear.
How will these birds fare this year? Sign up for Big Garden Birdwatch to let us know.
There's just over a week to go until #BigGardenBirdwatch! So we thought we'd take a look at some familiar faces that topped the Big Garden Birdwatch charts here in the east last year, starting this week's countdown at number ten and finishing at number 6 - look out for the top five next week!
10. In at ten, it's the long-tailed tit - easily recognisable birds with distinctive colouring, long-tailed tits look like a ball on a stick with long tails and small bodies. Gregarious and noisy residents, long-tailed tits are most usually noticed in small, excitable flocks of about 20 birds. Greater numbers of long-tailed tits are surviving our milder winters, meaning the number of birds seen in our gardens in the region has increased by 128% in ten years.
9. Moving down one place from 2016 is the great tit - the largest UK tit; green and yellow with a striking glossy black head, white cheeks and a distinctive two-syllable song. It is a woodland bird which has readily adapted to man-made habitats to become a familiar garden visitor. It can be quite aggressive at a bird table, fighting off smaller tits. Changes in weather during breeding seasons can have a big impact on these small birds.
2016’s prolonged wet spell meant there were fewer caterpillars about for feeding their young. It’s likely that this led to fewer younger birds surviving than usual, meaning there were fewer seen in gardens -14% less great tits in fact!
8. Jumping two places from ten to eight is the robin - the UK's favourite bird - with its bright red breast it is familiar throughout the year and especially at Christmas! Males and females look identical. Young birds have no red breast and are spotted with golden brown. Robins were seen in 90% of the region's gardens last year.
7. Non-mover, the goldfinch, remained in seventh place in the charts - a highly coloured finch with a bright red face and yellow wing patch. Sociable, often breeding in loose colonies, they have a delightful liquid twittering song and call. Their long fine beaks allow them to extract otherwise inaccessible seeds from thistles and teasels. Increasingly they are visiting bird tables and feeders – there’s been a 35% rise in the number of goldfinches visiting gardens in the east since 2007.
6. Coming in at number six, another non-mover, the collared dove - these pale, pinky-brown grey coloured birds, with a distinctive black neck collar (as the name suggests), have declined by 27% in the region since 2007. They have deep red eyes and reddish feet. Their monotonous cooing is a familiar sound to many and it’s easy to mistake them for a woodpigeons, however they are a lot smaller than a woodpigeon.
How will these birds fare this year? Sign up for Big Garden Birdwatch to let us know, and look out for last year's top five next week!
No, not made of birds! A kebab for birds to eat!
This simple homemade feeder will help attract birds to your garden for this year's Big Garden Birdwatch - now only a couple of weeks away (sign up here!) It's cheap and fun to make, and all you'll need is:
1. Taking floral wire, thread through chunks of cheese and apples, and raisins leaving about 8cm at either end.
2. Bend the wire to form a circle, holding the ends together.
3. Tie a loop of string on the wire circle.
4. Hang your scrumptious kebab up for the birds to feast on.
For your free Big Garden Birdwatch pack, which includes a bird identification chart, plus RSPB shop voucher and advice to help you attract wildlife to your garden, text BIRD to 70030 or visit www.rspb.org.uk/birdwatch