Locked-down Britons flock to take part in garden bird count

An annual garden birdwatching survey run by the RSPB saw a surge in interest from locked-down Britons this weekend.

The charity said online participants in the Big Garden Birdwatch on January 30 and 31, in which people spend an hour watching birds in their garden or balcony and record which species they see, were up 85% on last year’s figures.

The event proved so popular some keen participants reported having trouble logging their results on the website on Sunday.

A blackbird on a garden fork handle
A blackbird on a garden fork handle

The RSPB said the website was back up and running, and people had until February 19 to submit their results, which help scientists track the fortunes of some of the UK’s best-loved birds.

Nearly half a million people took part last year, but this year’s figure looks set to be much higher if online participant numbers from the weekend are anything to go by.

Early results suggest the house sparrow is maintaining its number one spot, with well over a million of the birds counted in the reports so far.

As of 9am on Monday morning, there had also been more than 705,000 blue tits recorded in gardens and more than 652,000 starlings.

Blackbirds and woodpigeons are currently in the fourth and fifth spot for the most-seen birds.

Beccy Speight, chief executive of the RSPB, said: “The huge levels of participation in the Big Garden Birdwatch this weekend are a testament to the power of nature to uplift and comfort us during these challenging times.

“A big thankyou to everyone who has taken part – what an incredible response.”

And she said: “Everyone who has taken part is helping us revive our world by building an annual snapshot of how our most common birdlife is doing across the UK and helping us better understand how to protect and restore it.”

She said she hoped that people taking part found it not just fun, but that it ignited or strengthened their connection with wildlife in their local area and what they could do to help it.

And she urged people to continue to send their results in, so they could use the important data gathered.

Are you missing #BigGardenBirdWatch LIVE? Don't worry – the live feeder cam at @RSPBArne is staying up for your enjoyment! 👉 https://t.co/TUef8DvtnS 🐦👀🏡 pic.twitter.com/P0ZHgPZLrU

— RSPB (@Natures_Voice) February 1, 2021

Over more than 40 years of the Big Garden Birdwatch, RSPB scientists have used the information to track trends for common birds, revealing problems such as declining numbers of sparrows and song thrushes.

It has also been able to monitor the increasing fortunes of birds such as goldfinches and wood pigeons and the arrival of new sights, such as red kites seen over gardens since their reintroduction began 30 years ago.