News archive

October 2017

Saturday, 14 October 2017

Count the wildlife that's counting on you

Count the wildlife that's counting on you

RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch 2018

Half a million people are expected to watch and count their garden birds for the 2018 RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch in January.
The world's largest garden wildlife survey, now in its 39th year, takes place on 27, 28 and 29 January 2018. The public are asked to spend just one hour watching and recording the birds in their garden or local green space, then send their results to the RSPB.
Close to half-a-million people joined in the world's largest garden wildlife survey in 2017 counting more than eight million birds and providing valuable information about the wildlife using our gardens in winter. The house sparrow remained top of the Big Garden Birdwatch rankings, with starling and blackbird rounding off the top three.

Last year's Big Garden Birdwatch also revealed an explosion in the number of recorded sightings of waxwings. These attractive looking birds flock to UK gardens in winter once every 7-8 years when the berry crop fails in their native Scandinavia. Known as an 'irruption', results showed that waxwings were seen in around 11 times more gardens in 2017 compared to the last couple of years, with sightings as far west as Wales and Northern Ireland.

Daniel Hayhow, RSPB Conservation Scientist said: "The birds we see in our garden are often the first experience we have with nature - whether it's a flock of starlings at the feeder, a robin perched on the fence or some house sparrows splashing in the bird bath. But it may come as a surprise to know that some of our most-loved species are in desperate need of our help as their numbers have dropped dramatically.
"The Big Garden Birdwatch is a great opportunity to get involved with helping our garden wildlife. By counting the birds that visit your outdoor space, you'll be joining a team of over half-a-million people across the UK who are making a difference for nature. It only takes an hour so grab a cuppa, sit back and see who makes a flying visit to your garden."
Species such as starlings and greenfinches have seen their numbers visiting gardens decline by 79 and 59 per cent retrospectively since the first Birdwatch in 1979.

But it wasn't all bad news. There was good news for robins in last year's survey, with the average number seen visiting gardens at its highest level since 1986, helping it climb two places to number seven, its joint highest-ever position in the Big Garden Birdwatch rankings.

Daniel added: "With over half a million people now regularly taking part, coupled with nearly 40 years worth of data, Big Garden Birdwatch allows us to monitor trends and helps us understand how birds are doing. With results from so many gardens, we are able to create a 'snapshot' of the birds visiting at this time of year across the UK. Even if you see nothing during your Big Garden Birdwatch hour, that's important information too, so please let us know."

As well as counting birds, the RSPB is once again asking participants to log some of the other wildlife they have seen throughout the year. This year, people are being asked to look out for badger, fox, grey squirrel, red squirrel, muntjac deer, roe deer, frog and toad.

To take part in the Big Garden Birdwatch 2018, participants should watch the birds in the garden or local park for one hour at some point over the three days. Only the birds that land in the garden or local park should be counted, not those flying over. The highest number of each bird species seen at any one time then needs to be sent to the RSPB.
The parallel event, Big Schools' Birdwatch takes place during the first half of spring term next year, 2 January-23 February 2018. Further information can be found at

Big Garden Birdwatch and Big Schools' Birdwatch are part of the RSPB Giving Nature a Home campaign, aimed at tackling the house crisis facing the UK's threatened wildlife. The charity is asking people to provide a place for wildlife in their gardens or outdoor spaces - whether it's putting up a nest box for birds, creating a pond for frogs or building a home for hedgehogs.

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

Registration for Big Garden Birdwatch 2018 opens 13 December 2017.

Saturday, 14 October 2017



As you sit snugly by the fire this winter, spare a thought for our feathered friends. Their survival skills are tested to the limit when winter tightens its grip and food becomes hard to find. Freezing weather is a potential death sentence for many birds, but with just a little water, food and shelter, gardens can become a vital haven for birds and other wildlife

In days of yore the RSPB held a 'Feed the Birds Day event' every year on the third week of October. Nowadays we advocate people feed our birds all year round and the events have ceased. However we at RSPB Liverpool think it's still a good time of year - as the nights draw in and our birds have less time to feed, to give out a timely reminder.
October is the month the clocks go back and the winter nights start drawing in - it's the time when birds and other wildlife need a little extra help as the first frost looms. So please fill your feeders, clean your bird tables, put out some water and give a helping hand to the wild birds around you. And the sooner you start feeding them, the more birds you'll see when you sit down to enjoy the RSPB's Big Garden Birdwatch in January! You may be surprised how the number changes according to the food you put out. And don't forget a place to sleep, start putting up nest boxes now to provide roost sites for smaller birds. They will then be used for breeding later in the year.


Feeding suggestions.
High calorie wild seed mixtures, and straight seeds i.e. sunflower hearts
There are different mixes for feeders and for bird tables and ground feeding. The better mixtures contain plenty of flaked maize, sunflower seeds, and peanut granules.

Small seeds, such as millet, attract mostly house sparrows, dunnocks, finches, reed buntings and collared doves, while flaked maize is taken readily by blackbirds. Tits and greenfinches favour peanuts and sunflower seeds. Pinhead oatmeal is excellent for many birds.
Fat balls,suet cakes and pellets are excellent winter foods. You can make your own by mixing melted beef dripping and a mixture of ingredients such as seeds, nuts, dried fruit, oatmeal, cheese and cake crumbs. use about one-third fat to two thirds mixture. Allow to set in a feeding container, empty coconut shell or simply turn out onto the bird table once solid.

Mesh bags - a warning- Peanuts and fat balls are regularly sold in nylon mesh bags. Never put out any food in mesh bags. These may trap birds' feet and even cause broken or torn off feet and legs. Birds with a barbed tongue, eg woodpeckers, can become trapped by their beaks.

Bread: has very low nutritional content and is essentially filler, ideally it should only be fed as part of a varied diet. Soaked bread is more easily ingested than stale dry bread.

Windfall and over ripe fresh fruit i.e. Apples, pears & other soft fruit. Dried fruits must be soaked before putting out, sultanas, raisins, currants.

Peanuts: are rich in fats and are of major importance to tit and greenfinch flocks during the winter and cold spring months. Salted peanuts should never be used for bird food.

Rice and cereals: Cooked rice, brown or white (without salt added) is beneficial and readily accepted by all species during severe winter weather. Porridge oats must never be cooked, since this makes them glutinous and can harden around a bird's beak. Uncooked porridge oats are readily taken by a number of bird species. It is best offered dry, with a supply of drinking water nearby.

Coconut: Give fresh coconut only, in the shell. Rinse out any residues of the sweet coconut water from the middle of the coconut before hanging it out to prevent the build-up of black mildew. Desiccated coconut should never be used as it may swell once inside a bird and cause death

Salt: Garden birds are practically unable to metabolise salt, which in high quantity is toxic, affecting the nervous system. Under normal circumstances in the wild, birds are unlikely to take harmful amounts of salt. Never put out salted food onto the bird table, and never add salt to bird baths to keep water ice-free in the winter.

Other kitchen scraps: cake crumbs, a little mild grated hard cheese, leftover cooked potato - plain baked, roast and pastry.

Wiggly worms? Mealworms, yes I know they look like shiny maggots, but they are not so squishy, and handling them is rather like grabbing a handful of animated rice! More to the point the birds love them. Serve live or dried. It is very important that any mealworms fed to birds are fresh. Any dead or discoloured ones should not be used as they can cause problems such as salmonella poisoning.

'Wild birds are incredibly important in the lives of many people; the RSPB's celebrates this special relationship and encourages everyone to feed garden birds.

Good hygiene at bird feeding stations is sensible.

When a large number of birds are attracted into an area to feed, the danger of disease increases.
Prevention is always better than a cure, and is the best thing you can do to help the birds.
Monitor the food you put out regularly. If the food is taking days to clear either from consider reducing the amount of food offered. Use a bird table and/or hanging feeders. A ground feeding tray is easier to keep clean and moved if all the food hasn't been ate before nightfall.* Rats are attracted to leftover food and often carry diseases, which can affect birds or humans.
Keep bird tables and surrounding areas clean and free from droppings or mouldy food, thus avoiding the risk of infection by providing breeding grounds for parasites and bacteria. Clean and wash the bird table and hanging feeders regularly using 5% disinfectant solution, and try and move feeding stations to a new area frequently to prevent droppings accumulating underneath. Water containers should be rinsed out as droppings can accumulate in bird baths. Your personal hygiene is also important. Please wear gloves when cleaning feeders and bird tables, and always wash your hands when finished

Where is the best place to put a bird table in my garden?

Bird tables should be placed where the birds are safe and will be able to feed undisturbed. Avoid putting them near fences or dense hedges, where cats can easily get to them. If there is a small bush nearby, birds can use this as a look-out point to make sure it is safe.
Where cats are a problem, avoid putting food on the ground, but use a bird table where cats cannot reach it.
Place feeders high off the ground but away from surfaces from which a cat could jump.

Place spiny plants (such as holly) or an uncomfortable surface around the base of the feeding station to prevent cats sitting underneath it.

Make the table-stand slippery using a metal post, or plastic bottles around non-metal posts.

Plant wildlife-friendly vegetation, such as prickly berry bearing bushes like pyracantha, berberis and cotoneaster and thick climbers in the garden to provide secure cover for birds. These should be close enough to where birds feed to provide cover, but not so close that cats can use it to stalk birds. This kind of planting may also provide food and nesting sites.

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Popular site manager retires after four decades with the RSPB

Popular site manager retires after four decades with the RSPB

The RSPB Dee Estuary nature reserve's long-serving site manager has retired after over 40 years working for the UK's largest nature conservation charity.
Colin Wells, who came to the Dee in 1984 as warden when the reserve only consisted of the vast saltmarsh at Parkgate, rose to site manager as he helped grow the RSPB's land-holding at Inner Marsh Farm and Burton Marsh Farm, culminating in the opening of Burton Mere Wetlands' in 2011.
Colin's early RSPB career saw him serve short contracts at reserves in Scotland, Yorkshire, Norfolk and Lancashire before being posted to the Dee to replace the warden at the time.
Robin Horner, Area Reserves Manager, said: "Colin's working life has been devoted to the creation and management of homes for nature. He is an expert in the requirements of coastal wetlands and the wildlife that lives within it and has been instrumental in not only managing the Dee Estuary reserve, but also inspiring local people to appreciate and care for this vitally important site and the wildlife that lives here."
The Dee Estuary is one of the RSPB's largest reserves and also benefits from legal protection as a Site of Special Scientific Interest and Special Protection Area for the wealth of wetland birds that call it home. The visitor facilities at Burton Mere Wetlands bring the extensive wildlife spectacles of the estuary into close view of fully accessible hides and nature trails allowing everybody to share and enjoy.
Colin Wells said: "It has been a privilege to work for such a wonderful organisation that achieves so much for wildlife as the RSPB. During my career, I have seen it grow from a small society to the UK's largest nature conservation charity. With the struggles facing the environment today, it is more important than ever that wildlife receives such support, and I am proud to have been able to contribute to the fight to save it. I'm pleased to have led the transformation of the land at Burton over the past 30 years, and look forward to enjoying Burton Mere Wetlands regularly as a visitor!"

For further information and to arrange an interview, please contact:
Daniel Trotman, RSPB Visitor Experience Manager, on 07718 699014 or email
Annabel Rushton, RSPB Regional Communications Manager, on 01524 581026 or 07793 902 590 or email

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