We're so excited!
We're now only a few weeks away from Big Garden Birdwatch, and up and down the country, hundreds of thousands of participants are getting ready for the big event.
If you’ve not done Big Garden Birdwatch before and don’t know what’s involved, relax, it’s a piece of cake. Here’s how it goes:
That’s it! You're done!
When our scientists compare the data from hundreds of thousands of people all across the UK, and compare it to results from the previous Big Garden Birdwatches (going all the way back to 1979), it provides a vital health check of our garden birds.
Over the years, it has revealed worrying trends, including around a 70% drop in song thrushes in gardens, and a 58% drop in house sparrows. But on the positive side, over the last 20 years, numbers of house sparrows have doubled in Wales. We’ll tell you more about how Big Garden Birdwatch helps our conservation scientists in a future blog post.
It’s not just about birds
While birds are the focus of the Birdwatch, we’re also asking you to tell us which other wildlife uses your garden. Why? Because we want to know how much certain species depend on gardens, including stag beetles, slow worms, and foxes.
We’re interested to know how trends for these species might change over time. For example, are gardens becoming more or less useful to moles as our countryside changes?
Your results will tell us a lot, so make sure to complete this part of your form too.
Have fun preparing! And if you have any more questions about how it works, check out our page on everything you need to know about Big Garden Birdwatch.
Here's a special guest Christmas post from RSPB Chief Executive, Mike Clarke...
This year has been a tough one, for many different reasons. But despite that, we've achieved a lot for nature during 2016...
...And it’s all thanks to people like you
Now is a good time to celebrate our successes with you, so I’ve picked a few highlights to share. Why not grab yourself a mince pie or two, a glass of your favourite tipple, make yourself comfortable and find out about just a few of the things we’re celebrating as 2016 comes to an end?
This year we recorded over 16,000 species on RSPB reserves – a jaw-dropping number of birds, mammals, plants, insects and more. And it’s your support that allows us to give them all a home.
Thanks to you we can improve and restore habitats so that all this precious wildlife can thrive. We are pleased to say that this year:
Special habitats safeguarded
At the RSPB we're all about building bigger and better homes for nature. By 2030 we'd like to double the area of land we manage and see 20% of UK land and 10% of UK and UK Overseas Territories seas protected for nature. It’s a big ask.
But we're thrilled to protect more special places for nature as RSPB nature reserves – and also improving the ones we already have! Our reserves are great homes for nature and brilliant outdoor spaces for you and your family to enjoy.
As well as adding new sites, we don't stop improving the ones we already manage, like at Mersehead on the Dumfries and Galloway coast.
We had the opportunity to expand the reserve and your generous support meant we reached our appeal target in record time! The expanded reserve will soon be the perfect home for lots of wildlife including otters, natterjack toads and barnacle geese, who head to the reserve from the Arctic Circle.
It’s been good news in some UK Overseas Territories this year. The Pitcairn Islands in the South Pacific, Ascension Island, St Helena and Tristan Da Cunha in the South Atlantic are all taking steps to protect their marine life, supported by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office who have pledged £20 million of new funding to help achieve this.
The future for tropical species like green turtles, the brilliantly named resplendent angelfish, tuna, sharks and frigatebirds now looks far brighter.
These are just a few of our achievements in 2016. My colleague Martin Harper has written a blog post on his own personal highlights, which go into many of these projects in more detail, it’s well worth a read.
As we head into a new year it’s great to know that day after day we’re improving wildlife’s fortunes around the world and making it a better place for the generations to come. There is still so much work to do, which we couldn’t manage without your support. Thank you.
All that’s left is for me to wish you a very Merry Christmas.
From Mike Clarke and all at the RSPB
“Before this weekend I rarely spent a prolonged period of time watching the birds in our garden. It was a revelation to see who visited and I am now ‘hooked’!”
We get messages like this from thousands of people every year after Big Garden Birdwatch. Once people have started doing it, they just can’t stop!
Is this your first Big Garden Birdwatch, or have you done it lots of times before? What are you doing to get prepared? Share your experience in the run up to the big day using #BigGardenBirdwatch on social media. We’d love to hear from you.
What might you see?
“I was engrossed by the birds’ acrobatics: a great stress-buster.”
If there’s one thing you can count on during Big Garden Birdwatch, it’s surprises.
In 2016, for instance, long-tailed tits entered the top 10 for the first time ever. There were also more sightings of tiny goldcrests and their cousins, firecrests – Britain’s smallest birds.
It’s possible that January’s mild weather meant that more small birds like this survived the winter to be counted. While natural food sources may have been plentiful, it’s clear from their appearances in gardens that they’re also relying on the food we put out.
If it’s a mild winter again this year, then it’s possible that robins will have begun their courtship behaviour by Big Garden Birdwatch weekend. Look out for male robins feeding the females, and aggressively defending their territory from other males.
Last year, Big Garden Birdwatchers reported surprise sightings throughout the weekend on Twitter and Facebook, including: a crow warming its wings on a neighbour’s chimney, redpolls on a bird feeder, a pair of great spotted woodpeckers, and six jackdaws scoffing the last of the Christmas cake left-overs!
What surprises are in store for you in January 2017?
Live-blogging the whole birdwatch
Whatever is happening, we’ll keep you up to date with the latest news and sightings over the whole three days via our live blog. There’ll be celebrity participants, last minute feeding tips, and highlights from social media posts from around the country.
It’s. Going. To. Be. Awesome.
More updates, coming soon…