Every year, I look forward to taking part in the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch and this year is no exception. It is great to be part of this, the biggest garden wildlife citizen science project in the world and it is providing us with valuable information about how bird species are changing in our gardens. This year celebrates the 40th anniversary! Big Garden Birdwatch actually started out as an event for children? Back in 1979, the RSPB joined forces with BBC’s Blue Peter and called on children to let the RSPB know what birds they saw in their garden.
Over the last 40 years, the Big Garden Birdwatch data has highlighted declines of house sparrows and starlings. These birds have dropped by an alarming 57 and 80 per cent respectively in gardens across the UK since the Birdwatch began. I remember lots of house sparrows in the privet hedges around my home in SE London, when I was a child. Starlings were also very common visitors. Here in Lichfield, I rarely record starling visiting and this year I have seen the most house sparrows … all of about 6 individuals!
There have been increases in some species. In 2016 long-tailed tits flew into the Big Garden Birdwatch top 10, after the average number seen visiting gardens across the UK increased by 44 per cent. These are one of my most favourite species and I record them very regularly here, with flocks of up to 8 individuals regularly flocking to the fat products on offer. About 8 years ago, I rarely saw goldfinch and now they are daily visitors.