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Nuthatch sightings top Big Garden Birdwatch wish-list

Last modified: 26 January 2012

Nuthatch on branch

First signs that nuthatches are colonising new areas comes from sightings at bird feeders

It’s becoming a more common sight in Scotland’s gardens, but RSPB Scotland is hoping a popular public survey will reveal more about the movements of a bird whose range was, up until fairly recently, restricted to England and the very south of Scotland.

This weekend (28th-29th January), thousands of Scots will be taking part in RSPB’s annual Big Garden Birdwatch, each spending one hour counting the birds that visit their gardens or local parks.

This year, the conservation charity is hoping the results will not only create a ‘snapshot’ of bird numbers across the country, but also reveal more about the movements of a small woodland bird called the nuthatch.

Previously confined to the southern half of the UK, milder winter weather patterns, most likely due to climate change, mean the species is now regularly breeding in Scotland

RSPB Scotland hopes sightings recorded during this year’s Big Garden Birdwatch may show how far north its range has extended. Often, the first signs that nuthatches are colonising new areas comes from sightings at bird feeders in gardens. Nuthatches have a particular appetite for peanuts.

Similar in size to a great tit, these colourful birds are not only recognised by their slate-grey back, rusty coloured front and black eye-stripe but also their ability to descent down a tree head first and creep along branches. They also have a distinctive loud whistling call comprising of repeated single notes.

As well as recording unusual species, the conservation charity is keen to see if 2011’s mixed weather will have impacted on garden bird numbers.

Gale force winds during the breeding season raised concerns for some species when nests were blown from trees, eggs were destroyed or young perished.

Louise Smith of RSPB Scotland said: “The Big Garden Birdwatch is a fun and easy way to learn more about the wildlife in your garden, whilst at the same contributing to an important piece of citizen science.  The results help us paint a clearer picture of bird populations in Scotland but in the case of the nuthatch it could also help us understand how the species is responding to the impacts of climate change.

“As always we will be keeping a watchful eye on all garden bird numbers so the more results we have, the better chance we have of spotting any worrying trends.”

Last year, over 45,000 Scots took part in the Big Garden Birdwatch. The chaffinch emerged as the most common garden visitor with an average of six spotted at any one time.

To step up for nature and take part, simply spend one hour over the weekend of 28-29 January, counting the birds in your garden or local park, and record the highest number of each bird species seen at any one time.

Visit the RSPB website www.rspb.org.uk/birdwatch for more information and to submit your results online.

Pre-registration is open until Friday and those pre-registering will get a 10% discount for bird food and feeders from the RSPB online shop.

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