Survey will help build a picture of the nation's birdlife
Thousands of people across Scotland are expected to watch and count their garden birds for this year’s RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch.
The world’s largest garden wildlife survey, now in its 38th year, takes place on 28, 29 and 30 January.
People are asked to spend just one hour watching and recording the birds in their garden or local public space, then send their results to the conservation organisation.
In our increasingly urban world, ensuring there is still room for wildlife is key to the survival of many familiar species.
Big Garden Birdwatch provides valuable information about the birds using our gardens in winter, enabling RSPB Scotland to examine trends and declines in their numbers. It is also a chance to take time to enjoy the nature on our doorsteps.
More than 36,000 people across Scotland took part last year and counted 626,335 birds and even more are expected to take part this year.
In response to demand, for the first time this year the Birdwatch will take place over three days, including the Monday, giving workers the opportunity to take a screen break and participate from their office gardens.
Keith Morton, species policy officer at RSPB Scotland, said: “It’s great to have so many people across Scotland taking part in Big Garden Birdwatch each year. Your results provide us with a snapshot of not only how birds are faring this year but also, with over 30 years’ worth of data, help us see changes in bird numbers over the long-term. Your results also paint a picture of the birds that are visiting Scotland at this time of year and how conditions overseas can have an impact on what we see here.
“However many or few birds you see during your Birdwatch hour, all your survey information is valuable so please do submit your counts.”
Last year house sparrows retained the top spot position, with chaffinches and starlings rounding off the top three.
The milder winter temperatures in the run up to Birdwatch 2016 benefitted smaller birds such as long-tailed tits, coal tits and great tits - the percentage of participants’ gardens in Scotland that were visited by a long-tailed tit saw a massive 166% increase, with over a third of gardens of those taking part recording one.
However, across the UK, song thrush numbers in gardens continued to fall with a decline of 70% since Birdwatch began.
This year, because of the recent cold snap, we could see some more unusual birds appearing in Scottish gardens. Look out for Scandinavian visitors such as redwings, fieldfares and waxwings in search of berries.
While redwings and fieldfares come to the UK every winter, waxwings come in large numbers only in some years when food supplies are scarce in Scandinavia. Waxwings arrived on the east coast in their hundreds earlier this winter and have since dispersed more widely – having now been reported as far west as Wales and Ireland.
To take part in Big Garden Birdwatch 2017, watch the birds in your garden or local park for one hour at some point over the three days. Only count the birds that land in your garden or local park, not those flying over. Tell us the highest number of each bird species you see at any one time – not the total you see in the hour.
Results will be published in March 2017.