The Big Garden Birdwatch results give RSPB scientists insights into how our garden birds are faring both across the country and here in Cambridgeshire
The number of nature lovers who took part in the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch soared to a million people this winter, after a year of lockdown restrictions saw people turn to nature for comfort.
Now in its 42nd year, the Big Garden Birdwatch is a chance for people of all ages to count the number of birds that visit their garden. This helps the RSPB build up a picture of how birds are faring. This year, over a million people across the country took part, counting 17 million birds. 18,500 took part across Cambridgeshire.
Hopes were raised for a bumper participation year after results from a YouGov survey revealed the pandemic is making the public more aware of nature in their local area. 41% reported seeing wildlife near their homes over the last 12 months that they had never noticed before.
Birds have brought comfort during the pandemic
The YouGov survey of 2,071 adults across the UK revealed that 63% of people said watching the birds and hearing their song added to their enjoyment of life since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. More than half of those surveyed (51%) believed the pandemic has made them more aware of the nature around them.
When the final Big Garden Birdwatch results were counted, the RSPB was blown away by the phenomenal response from the public. Over the first three days of submissions alone, numbers were up 85% compared to the same time period in 2020.
Beccy Speight, RSPB CEO said, ‘We have been blown away by the enthusiasm with which people have taken part in the Birdwatch this year. Lockdowns have brought few benefits, but the last year has either started or reignited a love of nature for many people, right on their doorsteps.
‘This winter has been a bleak ordeal, but as the dawn chorus starts to burst into song and the blossom starts to flower from the trees once more, we are emerging from this pandemic a new generation of nature lovers.
‘We hope the Birdwatch has kindled a new passion for wildlife for the thousands who took part for the first time this year. We need every voice raised to stand up for nature. The wildlife that gave us so much interest and solace is now just a fraction of what should be there. On the back of this wave of public support, we need the government to take the global leadership, policy and legislative opportunities open to it this year to reverse the decline and restore nature now.’
Trends revealed by the Birdwatch
The Big Garden Birdwatch, which was held over the last weekend in January, revealed that the house sparrow held on to its number one spot nationally. But 16 out of the top 20 bird species showed declines in average counts compared to last year. Starling slid down the ranking from 2nd place for the first time since 2010, with numbers down 83% since 1979. Further national declines were recorded for greenfinch and chaffinch. This year saw the lowest average for both types of bird ever recorded. Only robins, blackbirds, carrion crows and the song thrush saw an increase on 2020 across the UK.
Over its four decades, the 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, which are still down 78% compared to the first Big Garden Birdwatch in 1979. This species was a firm fixture in the top 10 in then, but by 2009, its numbers were less than half those recorded in 1979. It came in at 20th in the rankings this year, seen in just 9% of gardens.
The house sparrow remained at the top of the Big Garden Birdwatch rankings in Cambridgeshire as the most commonly seen garden bird. Found in over 60% of Cambridgeshire gardens, more than 2.6 million house sparrows were sighted across the country throughout the weekend. Meanwhile, starlings and woodpigeons joined house sparrows to form the top three most sighted birds in Cambridgeshire as local people enjoyed watching the wildlife found in their gardens.
Beccy added, ‘One way you can help revive our world is to bring nature to you. Your garden, balcony, and even windowsill are potential havens for wildlife, and in April we’re launching a digital platform, Nature on Your Doorstep, to help show you how.’
The Top 20 birds in 2021 RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch
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
Discover more about the RSPB’s exciting new Nature on Your Doorstep resources here: www.rspb.org.uk/yourdoorstep