Jan 31

It’s been a busy weekend for bird watching in the UK, with thousands of people taking part in the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch.

In last Thursday’s blog, I wrote about the importance of this annual event for monitoring the UK’s garden bird populations, and how it could show the effects of a cold winter on different bird species. Now the results are flooding in to the RSPB, and once analysed they will add to over 30 years of valuable data on the UK’s birds.

Photo of male chaffinch

The chaffinch topped my Big Garden Birdwatch, with at least nine individuals seen feeding.

A Birdwatch in Bristol

Although I’m not lucky enough to have my own garden – unless you count a tiny square of concrete – I was able to join in the Big Garden Birdwatch with a friend. And despite the chilly weather, there were plenty of birds to be seen.

Photo of a mistle thrush perched on blackthorn, swallowing a sloe berry

Some species were not so obliging - two mistle thrushes only turned up after my count had ended.

In addition to a small flock of chaffinches, there were several garden regulars such as blue tits, great tits and a robin, while blackbirds enjoyed apples put out on the lawn and a hungry jackdaw dropped in to pinch the remains of a sandwich.

Photo of house sparrows

Conspicuous by its absence? Despite being the most commonly recorded species in last year’s Big Garden Birdwatch, house sparrows are in decline across the UK - I saw none in my survey.

Other species were around but not recorded on the day, such as the dunnock and European starling, although the latter was seen flying nearby. Some once common species, such as the house sparrow, were noticeably absent.

The RSPB predicted that recent cold weather would result in increased sightings of more unusual garden visitors, such as redwings, fieldfares and possibly even the beautiful waxwing. Unfortunately no-one had told this to our birds, and no rarities were recorded on the day!

Photo of brambling standing in snow

The brambling, an attractive but more unusual garden visitor.

What did you spot?

Did you take part in the Big Garden Birdwatch? What birds did you see? We would love to hear about the birds that visit your garden – whether that’s in the UK or anywhere else!

Read more about the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch.

Find out about species found in the United Kingdom on ARKive.

Liz Shaw, ARKive Species Text Author

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