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Watch the birdie - and join annual garden survey

Big Garden Birdwatch 2013 logo

Big Garden Birdwatch 2013 logo

THOUSANDS of Fifers are likely to watch out for visitors to their gardens as they take part in the annual RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch.

The annual survey – which is used to track the fortunes of our garden birds – takes place on the weekend of January 26 and 27.

Last year, 4810 people in Fife took part and the organisers hope to break 5000 participants this time.

Louise Smith, of RSPB Scotland, said: “Over the years, the Big Garden Birdwatch has grown in popularity and has become a vital indicator of the state of some of our most recognised and common garden visitors.”

According to the survey results, the house sparrow was the most common visitor to Fife gardens in 2012, with the starling in second place and the blackbird third.

However, since beginning 1979, the Big Garden Birdwatch has revealed significant changes in the numbers of particular species.

Problems

Louise said: “The results help highlight any worrying declines or any concerning issues. Identifying a problem is the first step in aiding a species recovery. A single year is unlikely to tell us anything significant but can provide a vital piece of the jigsaw when looking for long-term trends.

“For example, over the years the Big Garden Birdwatch has helped identify a significant decline in starling numbers. Despite still being a fairly common garden regular, starling numbers have suffered huge declines.

‘‘Where once you may have seen 15 of these highly sociable birds at any one time, nowadays, in some areas, you may see just two or three.

Sightings

“In recent years the results have shown us how some species have coped during bad weather. During the cold winters of 2009 and 2010, the Big Garden Birdwatch suggested a dip in sightings of small-bodied birds such as coal tit, wren and long-tailed tit.

“These species have a high metabolism and require a lot of energy, and therefore a lot of food, to survive the freezing temperatures.

“We have since kept a close eye on these species and are pleased to see their numbers recovering, most probably due to good breeding season and the extra food generously provided by people during the winter.”

In 2012, 600,000 people across the UK, including a record-breaking 53,000 Scots, took part in the Big Garden Birdwatch, and Louise is hoping many Fifers will help make 2013 another record-breaking year.

“The Big Garden Birdwatch is a fantastic example of ‘citizen science’ and is open to everyone regardless of age, knowledge or experience,” she said.

“You don’t even need to have your own garden. ‘‘The survey can be carried in a local park, at one of our reserves, basically anywhere you are likely to spot birds.”

The survey takes place on the last weekend in January and participants are asked to spend one hour dnoting the highest number of each bird species seen in their gardens or local park at any one time.

They then have three weeks to submit their results to the RSPB, either online at www.rspb.org.uk/birdwatch or in the post.

>> To register, or for more information on the Big Garden Birdwatch, visit www.rspb.org.uk/birdwatch

 

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