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April 2019

Friday, 5 April 2019

RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch 40th anniversary sees house sparrow hold top spot for Merseyside

House sparrow remains at the top of the UK Big Garden Birdwatch rankings, including in Merseyside with almost 1.2 million sightings recorded in the UK throughout the weekend, but for many species fewer birds were recorded than in 2018.
Almost half a million people across the UK, including over 6,600 in Merseyside spent an hour watching the birds that visit their garden or outdoor space as part of the RSPB's Big Garden Birdwatch, counting more than 7.5 million birds in total.
For many people, garden birds remain an important link to nature and the RSPB wants to do more to increase this connection to help both wildlife and people.
The latest results from the RSPB's Big Garden Birdwatch have revealed a mixed picture for Merseyside's garden birdlife with seven of the top 20 species returning fewer sightings in gardens across the county than in 2018.

Now in its 40th year, the Big Garden Birdwatch is a chance for people of all ages to count the number of birds that visit their garden helping the RSPB build up a picture of how they are doing.

The event held over the last weekend in January revealed the house sparrow kept its number one spot in Merseyside. UK house sparrow numbers, reported by participants since the Big Garden Birdwatch began in 1979, have fallen by over half, but in recent years, national numbers have slowly started to rise again, giving conservationists hope that at least a partial recovery may be happening.

This year in Merseyside, there was a decrease in garden sightings of wrens and long-tailed tits, two of the smallest species to visit our gardens, after being counted in particularly large numbers in 2018. Populations of both species may have been affected by last year's 'Beast from the East' as small birds are more susceptible to spells of cold weather. But it's too early to say if this is a one year blip or the beginning of a trend.

Over its four decades, Big Garden Birdwatch has highlighted the winners and losers in the garden bird world. It was first to alert the RSPB to the decline in song thrush numbers. This species was a firm fixture in the top 10 in 1979. By 2009, its numbers were less than half those recorded in 1979, it came in at 21st in the Merseyside rankings this year.

Throughout the first half of the spring term the nation's school children also took part in the RSPB's Big Schools Birdwatch. The UK-wide survey of birds in school grounds saw close to 60,000 school children, including almost 400 in Merseyside, spend an hour in nature counting the birds. Nationally blackbird was in the number one spot, but bucking the national trend, black-headed gull was the most numerous species seen in Merseyside schools, with an average of almost 13 per school; and was spotted in over 40% of all schools that took part in the county.

Annabel Rushton, from the RSPB in Northern England said: "It's incredible to see that so many people across the county show a real passion and concern for the wildlife in their gardens and green spaces. People are becoming more and more aware of the challenges and threats that our UK wildlife is currently facing. Citizen science surveys, such as our Big Garden Birdwatch, really help empower people of all ages and backgrounds to play an active part in conservation, and to speak out for the wildlife they love and want to protect."

To highlight the crisis that nature is facing and the loss of over 40 million wild birds from the UK in just half a century, the RSPB is releasing a specially-created track of birdsong titled 'Let Nature Sing'. The single contains some of the most recognisable birdsong that we used to enjoy, but that are on their way to disappearing forever. A compilation of beautiful sound recordings of birds with powerful conservation stories including the cuckoo, curlew, nightingale and turtle dove.

The charity is calling on the public to download, stream and share the single (available to pre-order from 5 April) and help get birdsong into the charts for the first time, spreading the word that people across the UK are passionate about nature's recovery.

Martin Harper the RSPB's Director of Conservation said: "Birds are such iconic parts of human culture but many of us no longer have the time or opportunity to enjoy them. The time we spend in nature, just watching and listening, can have huge benefits to our wellbeing, especially in these stressful times. The RSPB wants to help more people reconnect with their wilder sides and is bringing birdsong back into people's busy lives by releasing a soothing track of pure unadulterated bird song. We hope that by understanding what we have lost, that we inspire others to take part in the recovery. Without nature our lives are so less complete."

The track is designed to help reconnect the nation with nature, helping people find a moment to relax and promote a feeling of tranquillity, as birdsong has been proven to aid mental health and promote feelings of well-being.

For a full round-up of all the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch results and to see which birds were visiting gardens where you live, visit www.rspb.org.uk/birdwatch