How many have you got? That is the question the RSPB is asking people in Merseyside to answer during Big Garden Birdwatch over the weekend of 28 and 29 January.
By getting people to count the birds in their gardens on a specific day, we can find out which is our most common garden bird. Last year 3,657 people in Merseyside took part in the RSPB's Big Garden Birdwatch, whilst nationally, nearly 400,000 people recorded 6 million birds in 210,000 gardens.
Kirsten Whittaker, Regional Big Garden Birdwatch co-ordinator, says: "You don't have to be an expert to take part and it's a fun event designed for all the family. Whether you're young or old, an 'expert' or a beginner, there really is no better place to start and the RSPB's Big Garden Birdwatch provides the ideal opportunity to begin a lifetime's interest.
The word birdwatching may conjure up images of individuals with wellies and binoculars scouring the countryside in all weathers, but in reality, most birdwatching is done by 'ordinary' people watching the birds in their garden or local park."
As a guide to what to listen out for, click on the picture of the birds below to listen to a recording of their call:
Last year, the starling was again Merseyside's top garden bird, with an average of 3.2 birds seen per garden. Merseyside is now the only county in the RSPB's North West Region where the starling is holding its own as garden bird champion. Nationally, starling numbers have plummeted from 15 per garden to an average of 3.6, a drop of 76% since the Big Garden Birdwatch started. Runners up again were house sparrows (2.8) and blackbirds (2.5) remained in third place.
Since 1979, Big Garden Birdwatch has provided valuable information, including how birds are faring in different geographical areas. This is important since some species, declining across the UK, may actually be stable or increasing in certain parts. The house sparrow is for example, doing much better in Wales than in England. So the more people who take part the better the information gathered will be.
To take part, simply spend one hour over the weekend of 28/29 January, counting the birds in your garden or local park, and record the highest number of each bird species seen at any one time. The morning is the best time to look, when the birds are out and about feeding after a cold winter night.
For further information and online resources to help you with your birdwatch, visit the RSPB website www.rspb.org.uk/birdwatch an online survey form will be available from the weekend of Big Garden Birdwatch until 17 February 2006.
Alternatively, Big Garden Birdwatch forms can be obtained by phoning 0870 600 7108 (calls charged at national rate). The hotline number will be operational from 1 December 2005 until 25 January 2006.
In 2005, the top ten birds on Merseyside were:
- House Sparrow
- Blue tit
- Wood pigeon
- Collared dove
- Great tit
Some fascinating facts from the RSPB:
- The oldest known blue tit survived an amazing 21 years
- Blackbirds will sometimes steal the snail from the song thrush once the shell is off
- Not all birds are expert nest builders Ã¢ÂÂ sometimes collared doves find their chicks fall through their flimsy nests
- The great tit times it breeding around caterpillar availability Ã¢ÂÂ it may catch 10,000 in a season.
Big Schools Birdwatch
The Big SchoolsÃ¢ÂÂ Birdwatch 2006 will be taking place in the two weeks 23 January to 3 February. During this time, the RSPB will be asking children and their teachers to look out for and count the birds that share their school environment.
Big SchoolsÃ¢ÂÂ Birdwatch is the schoolsÃ¢ÂÂ version of the RSPBÃ¢ÂÂs long-running Big Garden Birdwatch. It aims to encourage children to identify and take an interest in the birds visiting their school grounds. In 2005, 1,200 schools, involving more than 30,000 participants, took part in the survey counting 57,588 birds.
Results revealed that the starling was the most commonly seen bird in school grounds in the UK, with an average of 6.3 seen per school.
SchoolsÃ¢ÂÂ can provide excellent habitats for a range of different birds. Take our top bird, the starling, for example. Starlings like to stay together in groups. They like foraging for food on hard surfaces, such as playgrounds, but also probing in lawns and damp grass for worms and grubs. They sit on buildings and in trees to burble, whistle, chatter and shout their various calls. Schools offer a lot of the things that starlings like, and it shows in the Big Schools Birdwatch results.
Finding out more about the birds that go to school is very straightforward. The Big SchoolsÃ¢ÂÂ Birdwatch is a simple, fun, and relaxed learning opportunity for pupils, with no big organisational headaches for teachers to get it up and running.
The RSPB supplies a teacherÃ¢ÂÂs pack with plenty of ideas and information about the Birdwatch.
Feedback from the teachers and pupils who took part in 2005 has been overwhelmingly positive. Here are just a few of their comments, illustrating how creative teachers and pupils have been with such an engaging project:
Ã¢ÂÂI am pleased to say that the survey captures the childrenÃ¢ÂÂs imagination and that they enjoyed it very much. It inspired some useful curriculum work and display.Ã¢ÂÂ
Primary School Teacher, Hayes
Ã¢ÂÂWe thoroughly enjoyed this survey. Making seed cakes, stringing monkey nuts, all with one purpose in mind a super lunchtime counting and observing at close hand our lovely birds. Thanks for the inspiration, Keep up the great work.Ã¢ÂÂ
Primary School Teacher, Stafford
Ã¢ÂÂThis is the first time we have taken part and we really enjoyed it. All the school helped Ã¢ÂÂ there are only 34 of us! We are going to survey our bird population every month to see how it changes through the year. We have only just started feeding the birds so it will be good to compare results next year.Ã¢ÂÂ
Primary School Teacher, Buxton
So, while in school, be smart - take part in the Big SchoolsÃ¢ÂÂ Birdwatch 2006.
All you need to do to take part is watch and count the birds in your school grounds for one hour, then send in one set of results telling us what you saw. It doesnÃ¢ÂÂt matter how many or how few birds Ã¢ÂÂ all sightings are useful to us! You donÃ¢ÂÂt need to be an expert birdwatcher Ã¢ÂÂ the main thing is to have fun watching!
Log on to the RSPB website at: www.rspb.org.uk/schoolswatch for a free pack and further information.