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.
It is only in the last 3 years that bullfinch have taken advantage of the sunflower hearts on offer. Before that I might see them in the early spring, eating the newly emerging leaf buds on the lane. Today there were about 5 or 6 around the garden.
Changes in the climate would also seem to be having an impact. Over recent decades blackcaps have also seen increasingly in gardens in winter. Although these birds are primarily summer visitors to the UK, some are spending the milder winters in the UK rather than migrating further south in Europe. I have seen blackcaps this winter, but not today, so they are not featuring on my record for 2019.
I have the advantage of having cameras on all my feeders and I can watch 4 feeding stations at once from my office. I choose the hour that best represents my daily visitors. Apart from a nuthatch, this list represents my daily visitors pretty well….
These videos show a snapshot of some of the visitors to the 4 feeding stations that live stream on my website. A big thank you to CJ Wildlife, who sponsor these cameras, allowing me to live stream them for you to share. I know lots of people have logged on today to have a look and have been delighted to see so many visitors!
My hub feeders are probably the busiest. I feed a mixture of black sunflower and sunflower hearts here, along with a peanut butter cake, which the woodpecker and long tailed tits, in particular, love! The bullfinch, greenfinch and goldfinch can be seen regularly here, along with all of the other tits.
I placed a ground feeder in front of my fox cam and it has attracted quite a lot of visitors this weekend. I tend not to leave it here, as the rats soon find it and tend to take over. I will leave it a couple more days as it has been nice to watch the birds feeding here.
This feeding station is monitored by my PTZ camera, which I can control from my office. I change the set ups here regularly, trying out different feeders and arrangements.
The bird snack bar is most often frequented by the blue tits, who congregate in the hedge behind. There were 10 waiting to visit earlier today! The blackbirds have also started visiting and the robin, of course.
My next challenge is to undertake the Big School Birdwatch … we have all our feeders out and I will be taking children out over the the next few weeks to see what we can see!