6,000 Wiltshire people take part in RSPB's Big Garden Birdwatch
Over 6,000 people took part in this year’s RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch in Wiltshire.
The survey, the largest of its kind in the world, involves people counting the different birds that come to their gardens in one hour any time over the last weekend of January.
The top three birds seen in Wiltshire gardens were house sparrow, blue tit and blackbird, says the RSPB.
Further down the list there are a few changes, with long-tailed tit falling from number seven to number ten and goldfinches climbing from number eight to number six.
A decade ago, goldfinches were not in the top ten in Wiltshire and scientists believe that the increase in people providing food like nyjer seed and sunflower hearts in gardens, may have contributed to their steady rise to number seven.
Overall numbers of species, such as blackbirds and chaffinches may appear to be down in gardens since last year but in many cases this is not because these populations are in decline but because these species don’t need to come into our gardens during mild winters due to there being plenty of natural food available in the wider countryside.
However the continuing declines of some species are of greater concern.
Numbers of starlings have dropped by an alarming 84 per cent since Birdwatch began in 1979. This species is on the UK ‘red list’ meaning it is of the highest conservation concern.
There is slightly better news for the house sparrow in Devon, as the declines appear to have slowed, and it remains the most commonly seen bird in our gardens.
But it remains on the red list as numbers are down by 62 per cent since 1979.
Tony Whitehead, speaking for the RSPB in the south west, said: “2014 was always going to be an interesting Big Garden Birdwatch as the winter has been so mild, and we wondered if it would have a significant impact on garden birds.
“They were out and about in the wider countryside finding natural food instead of taking up our hospitality.
"The good news is that this may mean we have more birds in our gardens in the coming breeding season because more survived the mild winter.
"It is a great time to give nature a home by putting up a nesting box and supplementary feeding”
Martin Harper, RSPB conservation director, said: “Many garden birds rely on us humans for help.
"During winter, birds need extra food and water, and at other times of the year, as well as sustenance, a safe place to shelter and make their home can really give them a boost.
“Two of the species that moved up the national rankings this year, blue tits and goldfinches, are adaptable, friendly garden birds and great examples of birds that can flourish with our help.
"If we put up a nestbox, leave out some food or let our gardens grow a bit wild they’ll be among the first to take advantage.”
This year, for the first time, participants were also asked to log some of the other wildlife they see in their gardens.
The RSPB asked whether people ever see deer, squirrels, badgers, hedgehogs, frogs and toads in their gardens, to help build an overall picture of how important our gardens are for giving all types of wildlife a home.
This information will be analysed and results will be revealed next month.
The Big Schools’ Birdwatch is part of the Big Garden Birdwatch and the survey of birds in schools has revealed that the blackbird is the most common playground visitor for the sixth year in a row.
Of the schools which took part, 85 per cent saw blackbirds, with an average of five birds seen per school, slightly down on 2013 figures.
Giving Nature a Home is the RSPB’s latest campaign, aimed at tackling the housing crisis facing the UK’s threatened wildlife.
The charity is asking people to provide a place for wildlife in their own gardens and outside spaces – whether it by planting pollen-rich plants to attract bees and butterflies, putting up a nestbox for a house sparrow, or creating a pond that will support a number of different species.
The RSPB hopes to inspire people across the UK to create a million new homes for nature.
To find out more visit rspb.org.uk/homes