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North and north-east residents invited to take part in RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch

Robins are often seen on birdwatches
A robin erithacus rubecula, or robin red breast, perched on a magnolia tree. By Andy Hay at RSPB.

The world’s largest garden wildlife survey returns this weekend and residents across the north and north-east of Scotland are being encouraged to take part.

Big Garden Birdwatch is run by the RSPB and invites the public to spend just one hour watching the birds in their garden or local park and record what they see.

The charity then use the results to assess how healthy bird populations are across the UK.

What birds might I see?

This year’s Birdwatch event takes place on January 28, 29 and 30.

In 2021, more than one million people took part, counting more than 17 million birds.

family watching a bird on a feeder
The RSPB wants members of the public of any age to take part in the survey. Photo by Ben Hall at RSPB.

In Scotland, the house sparrow remained at the top of Big Garden Birdwatch rankings as the most commonly seen garden bird in 2021.

Starling held down the second spot with the blue tit completing the top three.

While house sparrows and starlings may be among the most commonly sighted birds, a closer look at Big Garden Birdwatch data shows that numbers have dropped dramatically since the Birdwatch began in 1979.

House sparrows are down 53% while starlings are down 80%. It’s a pattern echoed by two more garden favourites, with blackbird and robin sightings down 46% and 32% respectively.

Blue tits are one of the most commonly spotted birds in Scotland. Photo by Ray Kennedy at the RSPB.

“Big Garden Birdwatch gives everyone a chance to spend a little time just enjoying the wildlife around us, but it also allows us to engage in real science,” said Paul Walton, head of habitats and species for RSPB Scotland.

“It is very simple to do and to report – just tell us what you see in your garden or local park.”

Paul believes that the simplicity of the project is its strength.

Because so many people right across the country take part, the Big Garden Birdwatch is a survey of enormous scale.

“The picture it gives us across the years is unique and valuable information on how winter garden birds are faring nationally,” Paul said.

How can I take part in the RSPB Birdwatch?

To take part in Big Garden Birdwatch 2022, watch the birds in your garden for one hour at some point over the January 28, 29 and 30.

Only count the birds that land, not those flying over.

The RSPC want to know the highest number of each bird species you see at any one time – not the total you see in the hour.

Even if you don’t see anything, the charity is asking for the public to let them know as this is “really helpful” information.

RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch
Once you’ve spotted your birds, tell the RSPB what you saw by going online. Photo by Eleanor Bentall at the RSPB.

Then, go online and add the birds you spotted to the RSPB’s Birdwatch campaign page.

This year, Birdwatch organisers will also be live on Facebook and YouTube throughout the weekend with special guests including the likes of Chris Packham.

How to attract birds to your garden

The RSBP recommends “making the most” of your one hour for the Big Garden Bird Watch by doing three things.

  • Put out some clean, fresh water. Birds need this for drinking and bathing. Water is particularly important during the winter when natural supplies may be frozen.
  • Clean your bird table and feeders. Just like us, birds need a clean place to eat to help keep them healthy. Wash feeders with warm soapy water before they are replenished
  • Put a variety of food out to increase the number of species visiting your garden or balcony. Small seeds, such as millet, attract mostly house sparrows, dunnocks and finches. Blue tits, great tits and greenfinches favour peanuts and sunflower seeds.

Anne McCall, director of RSPB Scotland, said: “The last two years have reminded us all that nature is a part of our lives, reviving and supporting our wellbeing and mental health.

“Big Garden Birdwatch allows everyone to put aside some time just to concentrate on nature – and, at the same time, help to gather the information we need to do more to protect and restore wildlife.