As regular CFZ-watchers will know, for some time Corinna has been doing a column for Animals & Men and a regular segment on On The Track... particularly about out-of-place birds and rare vagrants. There seem to be more and more bird stories from all over the world hitting the news these days so, to make room for them all - and to give them all equal and worthy coverage - she has set up this new blog to cover all things feathery and Fortean.

Thursday, 29 March 2018

RSPB News: RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch Devon results reveal a golden year for the goldfinch


RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch Devon results reveal a golden year for the goldfinch
  • Favourable conditions lead to a surge in sightings of goldfinch, long-tailed tit and coal tit, along with many other smaller garden birds.
  • The results revealed a dip in sightings of our more solitary species like blackbird and robin as the mild winter meant they spent more time foraging for food away from our gardens.
  • Hundreds of thousands of people across the UK spent an hour watching the birds that visit their garden or outdoor space as a part of the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch counting almost 7 million birds.

The latest results from the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch have revealed a golden year for the goldfinch along with a number of other small birds after a surge in sightings in gardens across the country.
Now in its 39th year, the Birdwatch is a chance for people of all ages to count the number of bird that visit their garden helping the RSPB build up a picture of how they are doing. This year, more than 420,000 people across the country took part counting an impressive 6.7 million birds. Just over 12,000 took part in Devon.
The event held over the last weekend in January revealed an increase in sightings of smaller birds, such as goldfinch, long-tailed tit and coal tit that can usually be seen visiting gardens and outside spaces in mixed flocks. Recorded sightings of the brightly coloured, sociable finch rose by 11% on 2017 figures and its bright red face was seen in more than two-thirds of gardens. Other small birds that are thought to have benefited from the mild January weather include long-tailed tit (+16%), coal tit (+15%), and blue tit (+5%).
It also proved to be a good year for the greenfinch after a 5% rise in sightings, a welcome sign for a species that has undergone a 60% decline in sightings since the first survey in 1979.
The influx of these species to our gardens is thought to be linked to the favourable conditions during their successful breeding season in 2017. This, combined with the kind autumn and winter weather in the run up to the Birdwatch, will have contributed to the rise in sightings. 
Tony Whitehead, spokesperson for RSPB in Devon said: “We’d like to say a huge thank you to everyone in Devon who took part in our 2018 Big Garden Birdwatch. By donating an hour for nature, you have provided invaluable data about the health of the feathered friends that make living in Devon so wonderful.
“And your top five results are in: In fifth place, the beautiful goldfinch had a wonderful year in Devon, it was recorded in higher numbers on average in the county and seen in more Devonian gardens. In fourth place, the cheeky starling enjoyed an increase in the average number of the species recorded, but a dip in the number of gardens it was recorded in compared to 2017. In third place, the melodic blackbird saw a double dip in the number of Devon gardens that reported sightings and the average number of this species recorded– echoing the national trend.  In second place, the colourful blue tit celebrated a double bonus, increasing in average species numbers and the number of gardens it visited across the survey weekend. But the UK’s overall winner, the house sparrow, stole the show in Devon this year. Although it was sighted in fewer gardens compared to 2017, the average number of this species recorded did increase across Devon.
“Big Garden Birdwatch just goes to show that all of the incredible effort people in Devon are doing to give nature a home in their own gardens, is really essential to the survival of our garden birds. Hopefully these results will encourage even more people to do their bit for Devon’s wildlife.”
Daniel Hayhow, RSPB Conservation Scientist, said: “Our garden birds are a part of our everyday life, whether it’s the robin perched on the garden fence or the flock of starlings you see on your way to work. To have hundreds of thousands of people spend an hour watching the wildlife in their garden isn’t only great to see, but it also helps us build up a picture of how our garden birds are doing, which is really helpful.
“Last summer was a really good year for many breeding birds with warm weather creating great conditions for many smaller birds to raise their young to adulthood. The rise in sightings of goldfinch, long-tailed tit and coal tit, along with chaffinches and greenfinches, goes to show that in the absence of cold weather they can survive the winter months in good numbers. Looking at the results it is likely that across the UK this is what people are seeing in their garden.”
It is likely that the warmer temperatures during the autumn and winter will have made it easier for these birds to find food, like insects, in our gardens, which in previous colder winters would have been harder to come by because of frosts and snow.
The survey also highlighted a dip in the number of recorded sightings of blackbirds (-18%), robins (-12%) and wren (-11%) on last year’s figures. Dr Hayhow explained: “We all will have noticed that the weather earlier in the winter was slightly warmer than we’re used to, and our garden birds have felt this too. It’s usual for there to be more food available in the wider countryside during a mild winter meaning birds are less reliant on the treats we put out on the garden feeders. However, unlike the finches and tits, robins and wrens did not have a good breeding season in 2017 and data from other surveys indicate that their numbers may be down overall this year.”
The house sparrow remained at the top of the Big Garden Birdwatch rankings at the most commonly seen garden birds with more than one million recorded sightings throughout the weekend. Starling held down the second spot once more, with the blue tit moving up one spot to round off the top three.
Throughout the first half of the spring term the nation’s school children took part in the RSPB’s Big Schools Birdwatch. The UK-wide survey of birds in school grounds saw 93,000 school children spend an hour in nature counting the birds. Despite a drop in Big Garden Birdwatch sightings, the blackbird remain top of the Big Schools Birdwatch rankings with one being spotted in 88% of schools – a 22% increase on 2017.
For a full round up of all the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch results and to see which birds were visiting gardens where you live, visit www.rspb.org.uk/birdwatch 

Editor’s notes:
  1. The RSPB is the UK’s largest nature conservation charity, inspiring everyone to give nature a home. Together with our partners, we protect threatened birds and wildlife so our towns, coast and countryside will teem with life once again. We play a leading role in BirdLife International, a worldwide partnership of nature conservation organisations.
  2. The top 20 birds in 2018 RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch:




Rank
Species





Change in rank 2017-2018
Average per garden




Average per garden% change 2017 - 2018
LONG TERM Average per garden% change 1979 - 2018
% of gardens species recorded in 2018



% of gardens species recorded in change 2017-2018
1
House sparrow
0
4.3
-0.5
-57
64
-5
2
Starling
0
3
-4
-80
42
-13
3
Blue tit
+1
2.6
+5
+7
79
-2
4
Blackbird
-1
2.4
-18
-40
88
-5
5
Woodpigeon
0
2.1
-9.3
+952
75
+5
6
Goldfinch
0
1.8
+11
N/A
34
0
7
Great tit
+1
1.5
+4
+67
59
0
8
Robin
-1
1.4
-12
-31
84
-6
9
Long-tailed tit
+1
1.4
+16
N/A
31
3
10
Chaffinch
-1
1.3
+4
-55
40
0

3.     Selected other results from RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch:
Rank
Species





Change in rank 2017-2018
Average per garden




Average per garden% change 2017 - 2018
LONG TERM Average per garden% change 1979 - 2018
% of gardens species recorded in 2018



% of gardens species recorded in change 2017-2018
11
Chaffinch
-1
1.3
+4
-55
40
0
15
Coal tit
+1
0.7
+15
+265
36
+13
18
Greenfinch
0
0.4
+5
-58
17
-2

4.     RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch survey is the largest citizen science survey in the UK and is a part of the RSPB’s Centre for Conservation ScienceThe centre was set up with the aim of finding practical solutions to the most pressing conservation problems, whether it’s working out how to save a species on the verge of extinction or restoring a destroyed rainforest.
5.     The RSPB offers everything to easily create a haven for wildlife in your garden. All our expertise has been used to develop the very best food and homes, using sustainable materials whenever possible. All the profits from our shop go towards helping birds and wildlife. Browse below, or view our online shop for our full range of products. rspb.org.uk/shop

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