News archive

March 2014

Thursday, 27 March 2014

All change in top 10 for Merseyside

All change in top 10 for Merseyside

Gardens are vital for many much-loved species. Almost half a million people who took part in this year s RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch have discovered some interesting changes among our most popular garden birds, with some species that benefit from a bit of extra help creeping up the rankings.

In Merseyside there were changes in the top ten as house sparrows moved up one position to the top of the table, while the previous occupier of first place, blackbirds, dropped to number three. Starlings also climbed to second place, with an average of two recorded per garden, while blue tits held onto fourth place.

Goldfinches climbed an impressive sixteen places to take seventh position this year and scientists believe that the increase in people providing food, like nyjer seed and sunflower hearts in gardens, may have contributed to their steady rise.

Scientists also believe that the weather has played a role in the ups and downs in this year s top ten as many of the birds were recorded in lower numbers in gardens due to the mild conditions. Some species, such as blue tits, were likely to be more reliant on food provided in gardens than others, such as blackbirds, which could easily find their favoured foods like worms and insects in the countryside.

Overall numbers of species such as blackbirds and fieldfares may appear to have dropped in our gardens since last year, but in many cases this is not because these populations are in decline but because these species don t need to come into our gardens during mild winters due to there being plenty of natural food available in the wider countryside.

However the continuing declines of some species are of greater concern. In Merseyside, numbers of starlings have dropped by 1.2 per cent and song thrushes have dropped by an alarming 94 per cent. Both species are on the UK red list meaning they are of the highest conservation concern.

There is slightly better news for the house sparrow, as the declines appear to have slowed, and it remains the most commonly seen bird in our gardens. However, the bird remains on the red list as we have lost 62 per cent nationally since 1979. In Merseyside, the house sparrow claimed first position with an average of two recorded per garden a 2.7 per cent decline compared to last year s results.

Richard Bashford, Big Garden Birdwatch organiser, says: 2014 was always going to be an interesting Big Garden Birdwatch as the winter has been so mild and we wondered if it would have a significant impact on garden birds.

They were out and about in the wider countryside finding natural food instead of taking up our hospitality. The good news is that this may mean we have more birds in our gardens in the coming breeding season because more survived the mild winter. It is a great time to give nature a home by putting up a nesting box and supplementary feeding.

Martin Harper, RSPB Conservation Director, says: Many garden birds
rely on us humans for help. During winter, birds need extra food and water, and at other times of the year, as well as sustenance, a safe place to shelter and make their home can really give them a boost.

Two of the species that moved up the national rankings this year, blue tits and goldfinches, are adaptable, friendly garden birds and great examples of birds that can flourish with our help. If we put up a nestbox, leave out some food or let our gardens grow a bit wild, they ll be among the first to take advantage.

More than 5,500 people in Merseyside took part in the Birdwatch survey in January, which is the largest of its kind in the world.

This year, for the first time, participants were also asked to log some of the other wildlife they see in their gardens. The RSPB asked whether people ever see deer, squirrels, badgers, hedgehogs, frogs and toads in their gardens, to help build an overall picture of how important our gardens are for giving all types of wildlife a home. This information will be analysed and results will be revealed next month.

The Big Schools Birdwatch is part of the Big Garden Birdwatch. The UK-wide survey of birds in schools has revealed that the blackbird is the most common playground visitor for the sixth year in a row. 85% of schools that took part in the survey in the Big Schools Birdwatch saw blackbirds, with an average of five birds seen per school, slightly down on 2013 figures.

Giving Nature a Home is the RSPB s latest campaign, aimed at tackling the housing crisis facing the UK s threatened wildlife. The charity is asking people to provide a place for wildlife in their own gardens and outside spaces whether it is by planting pollen-rich plants to attract bees and butterflies, putting up a nestbox for a house sparrow, or creating a pond that will support a number of different species.

The RSPB hopes to inspire people across the UK to create a million new homes for nature.

To find out how you can give nature a home where you live visit

This table shows the top 10 birds seen in Merseyside gardens in 2014.

Species Average number per garden Rank

House Sparrow 2.51 1
Starling 2.47 2
Blackbird 2.19 3
Blue tit 1.90 4
Woodpigeon 1.82 5
Goldfinch 1.78 6
Magpie 1.32 7
Feral pigeon 1.17 8
Collared dove 1.10 9
Robin 1.03 10

Sunday, 2 March 2014

State of the nature - Groundbreaking report shows nature is in trouble

State of the nature - Groundbreaking report shows nature is in trouble

David Attenborough:

The islands that make up the United Kingdom are home to a wonderful range of wildlife that is dear to us all. From the hill-walker marvelling at an eagle soaring overhead, to a child enthralled by a ladybird on their fingertip, we can all wonder at the variety of life around us.

However, even the most casual of observers may have noticed that all is not well.

They may have noticed the loss of butterflies from a favourite walk, the disappearance of sparrows from their garden, or the absence of the colourful wildflower meadows of their youth. To gain a true picture of the balance of our nature, we require a broad and objective assessment of the best available evidence, and that is what we have in this ground-breaking State of Nature report.

This important document provides a stark warning: far more species are declining than increasing in the UK, including many of our most treasured species. Alarmingly, a large number of them are threatened with extinction.

The causes are varied, but most are ultimately due to the way we are using our land and seas and their natural resources, often with little regard for the wildlife with which we share them.

The impact on plants and animals has been profound

Although this report highlights what we have lost, and what we are still losing, it also gives examples of how we - as individuals, organisations, governments - can work together to stop this loss, and bring back nature where it has been lost. These examples should give us hope and inspiration.

We should also take encouragement from the report itself; it is heartening to see so many organisations coming together to provide a single voice, stating loud and clear what is happening to our wildlife.

This partnership, backed by a combined membership of millions and enabled by the heroic efforts of thousands of volunteer recorders, provides a powerful force to bring the UK's nature back to its former glory.

State of the nature, England report:

Iolo Williams:

Watch this to feel inspired, daunted, depressed, raging, emotional and driven.