It’s Big Garden Birdwatch 2019 weekend: Here are Cambridgeshire’s recent winners and losers
Fabian Harrison, of the RSPB in the East of England, urge us to take part in this huge citizen science project.
Sometimes day to day life can feel so disconnected from nature, making us forget that we exist off of what the land gives us – food, sources of energy, and even the materials we use to make our clothes. We can also feel far away from wildlife and all of the birds and creatures which contribute to and help the ecosystems that sustain our natural habitat.
The RSPB’s 40th Annual Big Garden Birdwatch invites you to reconnect with the hidden closeness of nature in the small and simple act of taking one hour away from all of the distractions inside our homes and looking out, into the garden!
On the 26, 27 or 28 January your task is to take this hour to sit down (with an optional cup of tea in hand) and record the birds and other wildlife that visit your garden or local green space. In doing so you will become part of a huge community of people (last year almost half a million people participated!) all joining together to notice and help nature. Your findings will be used as essential data in carrying on the RSPB’s work in tracking and monitoring bird trends and populations, indicating how our wildlife is doing and how we can work to protect and conserve it. Visit www.rspb.org.uk/birdwatch to record your sightings.
We know that every person participating is important because current trends indicate that sadly, as is in many parts of the world of the world, much of our wildlife is struggling. Since records began in 1979, the number Starlings has dropped by 81%. Tree sparrow populations have dropped by over 95%. This information is vital for us to intervene and help these birds that are most at risk, as well as other declining species.
Ahead of this year’s Big Garden Birdwatch, we look at the garden bird winners and losers from the last few years in Cambridgeshire.
Not as colourful as some of its relatives, the coal tit has a distinctive grey back, black cap, and white patch at the back of its neck. Its smaller, more slender bill than blue or great tits means it can feed more successfully in conifers. A regular visitor to most feeders – they didn’t disappoint in Suffolk. They moved up two spots in the charts, to 18th most spotted bird – recorded in 18% of our gardens!
The goldfinch is a highly coloured finch with a bright red face and yellow wing patch. Ranked at number seven in 2017, these beautiful finches have stayed put in the charts – being spotted in 38% of our gardens!
Whilst greenfinches have been facing serious declines in the past, linked to outbreaks of trichomonosis, we’re pleased to say that in Cambridge you had lots of sightings! Our data shows that 20% of gardens had them visiting.
These cute little birds are a delight to see in the garden, and through the winter months you’ll likely see them in flocks of up to 30 birds, coming down to your feeders. In Cambridgeshire last year there was a 12% increase on sightings from 2017 ranking them at number nine!
Starlings returned to the top three in 2017, just below the house sparrow in second place. However, again, despite being the second most seen bird in our gardens, the drop in starlings over the last 30 years is somewhat more depressing.
A 79% reduction in numbers nationally since 1979, and a 22% decline in the region since 2007, are largely undetermined. It is known though, that starlings are heavily dependent on soil invertebrates like earthworms and leatherjackets, and it is possible this food supply has either declined or perhaps become less available during dry summers.
Robins were down on 2017, with a 14% decline in peoples gardens across the county. We think this may be because the mild winter meant there was more food available in the countryside, meaning they didn’t need to rely on gardens for food. Also, blackbirds and robins didn’t have such a good breeding season.
Quiet and unobtrusive, dunnocks are often seen on their own, creeping along the edge of a flower bed or near to a bush, moving with a rather nervous, shuffling gait, often flicking its wings as it goes. Dunnocks also suffered across the county due to the bad breeding season – with a 13% decrease in sightings.
Widely known as one of our most recognisable birds in the UK, blackbirds in 2017 were recorded in a whopping 97% of gardens across Cambridgeshire – but sightings dropped by 23% last year nudging them down to third place. Will they keep the position this year?
Free digital pack
For your free Big Garden Birdwatch digital pack, which includes exclusive unseen clips and celebrity content, as well as a counting and bird identification chart, text BIRD to 70030 or visit www.rspb.org.uk/birdwatch.