Are you ready for Big Garden Birdwatch?
|Published: 28th January 2011 09:05|
At least half a million people are expected to be watching more garden birds than ever before at the weekend, (29-30 January), for the RSPB's Big Garden Birdwatch.
The RSPB is keen to know how the coldest December since records began has affected garden bird numbers.
The worst winter weather is usually in January and February, and the wildlife charity believes that the early start to winter and the extremely low temperatures will mean that gardens have already been occupied by higher numbers of birds than normal.
The RSPB also expects some unusual sightings in the survey, with less common birds already having had 3-4 weeks to find food left out by concerned householders.
Dr Mark Avery, RSPB Conservation Director, says: "Regardless of where they live, or the size of their outside space, people in the UK have been united this winter in their wish to try and help garden birds.
"As a result, we expect more birds than ever to be recorded in Big Garden Birdwatch 2011, and maybe more unusual species than other years.
"The really cold weather began quite early in December, and this would have when been natural food sources became scarce. Birds that wouldn't usually be found in gardens had to adapt their behaviour and look closer to home in our gardens.
"By now, these birds could have been making the most of our hospitality for over a month, meaning even more unusual sightings this weekend."
Participants are also expected to take part from a wider variety of gardens than ever before too.
People have already confirmed that they will be doing Big Garden Birdwatch from places like boats, old people's homes, caravans, allotments, nurseries and prisons, helping garden birds, no matter where they live or the size of their garden.
Even Government ministers will be taking part, and Richard Benyon, Minister for the Natural Environment, says: "The Big Garden Birdwatch is something everyone can get involved in and I'm looking forward to taking part this year. Our bird populations are a good indicator of the wider health of our environment and the valuable information collected will help us understand more about why birds are in decline and what we do to help them."
Fen Gerry, who will be taking part in Big Garden Birdwatch from her canal boat home says: "Who says you have to take part from a house with bricks and mortar?! Anyone with an outside space can get involved, and my ‘back garden' happens to be the Oxford canal so that's where I'll be watching birds for an hour this weekend."
There has been huge concern about birds during the extended periods of snowy weather, and the RSPB's switchboards and website have been constantly busy with people looking for advice on feeding garden birds and help identifying unusual visitors. The charity has also sold a record amount of birdseed this winter.
The charity hopes that as well as providing useful data to study trends and spot any worrying declines, the survey will act as a reminder that garden birds still need our help for a few weeks yet. The RSPB is advising people to continue putting out supplementary food and water, to attract all kinds of species.
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Photos: AboutMyArea editor, Clara Lawrie