RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch starts January 27 2018

The RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch is set to bring more than half-a-million people together this weekend (January 27, 28 and 29) as they uncover what is happening in their garden, helping to create an annual snapshot of how UK birds are doing.

To take part in the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch 2018, simply spend an hour over the weekend watching the birds in your garden, outdoor space or local park. Once you have recorded the birds that make a visit, whether it’s a starling, sparrow or skylark, submit your results online at

Morwenna Alldis, spokesperson for the RSPB South West said: “The beauty of the Big Garden Birdwatch is that it’s so easy to take part – just one hour to complete. It also gives participants an instant connection to nature and it provides vital data that enables the RSPB to help those species that are struggling the most. If you’re looking to make a positive difference this weekend – the Big Garden Birdwatch is the best thing that you can do.”

Last year close to half-a-million people across the UK took part, making Big Garden Birdwatch the world’s biggest wildlife survey. More than 8.5 million birds were spotted visiting gardens with house sparrow topping the list, along with some other familiar species like robin, blackbird and starling in the top 10.

This year the RSPB is curious to see how these figures will change following a positive year for some resident British birds, such as greenfinch, chaffinch, blue tit, great tit and long-tailed tit. Numbers of greenfinches have been impacted by Trichomonosis for the last decade and the disease has been documented in other garden birds, such as chaffinch.

More recently there was a downward trend in Big Garden Birdwatch sightings of the tit species, which was thought to be linked to the prolonged wet weather in the 2016 breeding season.

However, the 2017 season appeared to be a good one for these resident birds and that combined with the relatively favourable winter weather conditions has fuelled speculation that it could be a bumper weekend of sightings.

In 2017 the house sparrow was the most recorded bird in the recordings through the UK.

When combined with 38 years of data from previous Birdwatches, the RSPB is bettter equipped to monitor trends and understand which birds are struggling and are in need of help.

‘Golden’ year for Big Garden Birdwatch

The latest results from the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch (BGB) have revealed a golden year for Goldfinch along with a number of other small birds after a surge in sightings.

Now in its 39th year, the BGB is a chance for people of all ages to count the number of birds that visit their garden, thus 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.

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 per cent on 2017 figures and its bright red face was seen in more than two-thirds of gardens. The mild January weather is also thought to have contributed to the upturn of sightings of Long-tailed (up 16 per cent), Coal (up 15 per cent) and Blue Tits (up 5 per cent).

Goldfinch sightings rose by 11 per cent in this year’s Big Garden Birdwatch (RSPB).

It also proved to be a good year for Greenfinch after a 5 per cent rise in sightings, a welcome sign for a species that has undergone a 60 per cent 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 milder autumn and winter weather in the run up to the BGB, will have contributed to the rise in sightings.

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.”

Greenfinches have declined radically in recent years (RSPB).

It is suggested that the warmer temperatures during the autumn and winter will have made it easier for these birds to find insect food 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 (down 18 per cent), Robins (down 12 per cent) and Wren (down 11 per cent) 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.”

House Sparrow remained at the top of the Big Garden Birdwatch rankings as the most commonly seen garden bird 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 schoolchildren took part in the RSPB’s Big Schools Birdwatch. The country-wide survey of birds in school grounds saw nearly 60,000 schoolchildren spend an hour in nature counting the birds. Despite a drop in BGB sightings, Blackbird remains top of the Big Schools Birdwatch rankings with one being spotted in 88 per cent of schools – a 22 per cent 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

Long-tailed Tit sightings were up in gardens in 2018 (RSPB).

RSPB Bird Watch 2017 Pack

RSPB Bird Watch 2017 Pack

  1. 1. 28-30 January 2017 Count the wildlife that’s counting on you Everything you need to know to do the Big Garden Birdwatch Thank you for counting the wildlife that’s counting on you Join in the conversation at #biggardenbirdwatch The RSPB is a registered charity in England and Wales 207076, in Scotland SC037654. Front cover image: robin by Genevieve Leaper ( 356-0922-16-17. ITM005238. 409434.
  2. 2. RelaxSit back and welcome to the Big Garden Birdwatch What is it? Since 1979, people have been watching the birds in their garden or local park for an hour, and telling us what they’ve seen. It’s a simple hour of watching, but we now have 37 years of data to compare against. That’s an astonishing amount of insight into how our wildlife is faring. Why do it? It’s a relaxing and interesting way to spend an hour, and it will help you to get closer to the birds and other wildlife in your garden. What started out as a small children’s activity in 1979 now has over half a million citizen scientists taking part each year, and the more people that take part, the more accurate the survey will be. The results help us to find out what wildlife is in trouble, and what’s thriving. Then we can take action to put things right. Also, it means that over half a million people UK-wide are connecting with the nature nearest to them. Image by RSPB
  3. 3. “I enjoyed knowing I was doing something useful, counting the birds.” Image by RSPB The Big Garden Birdwatch is the world’s largest wildlife survey.Through the Birdwatch, we know that, in our gardens since 1979, starlings have declined by 81% and song thrush numbers have declined by around 70%. It also told us that in 2016, the long-tailed tit flew into the top 10 following a mild winter – up by 44% from 2015. It was originally just a bird survey, but since 2014 we’ve also been asking respondents about other wildlife that visits their garden. Through this, we now know that only 25% of people see hedgehogs in their garden at least once a month. All this information adds up to create a detailed snapshot of how our wildlife is faring around the UK. What the Birdwatch has told us Starling by Andrew Walmsley / Alamy Stock Photo
  4. 4. Greenfinches by Andrew Marshall ( AttractYou’ll see more birds if they know your garden as a feeding spot. Different birds like different kinds of foods, from shop-bought fat balls to kitchen scraps. From the kitchen Try putting out grated cheese, cake, cooked potato, fruit, pastry, dried porridge oats or sultanas. Avoid dried fruit if you have a dog, as it can be poisonous. Birds and other wildlife also need water to drink and bathe in, so make sure there’s always a fresh supply. You can find more activities you can do to get ready for your Birdwatch at From the RSPB shop Sunflower hearts are full of energy for blue tits, great tits, greenfinches, goldfinches, blackbirds and house sparrows. Put them in a feeder, on a table, or simply sprinkle them on the ground. Suet balls are great for blackbirds, house sparrows, starlings and robins in winter, when birds need high-fat foods to survive the cold. Vist for other bird foods and ways to give nature a home. “I was completely engrossed by the birds’ acrobatics for food and felt the time watching was a great stress-buster. Wonderful!”
  5. 5. Birdwatch results around the UK The Birdwatch tells us what’s happening to garden birds both UK-wide and closer to home. Over the last 10 years we’ve seen huge changes to the numbers of greenfinches and goldfinches. See what’s happened in your country opposite. Large decrease 2006–2016 UK UK England: -66% England: 90% N. Ireland: -75% N. Ireland: 44% Scotland: -67% Scotland: 91% Wales: -68% Wales: 92% Large increase 2006–2016 Greenfinch Goldfinch -66% 89% 2006 2016 2006 2016
  6. 6. HowHere’s what you need to do to be a Big Garden Birdwatch citizen scientist on 28, 29 or 30 January 2017. Blue tit by Niall Benvie ( by Andy Hay ( Choose a time of day that’s convenient for you.You’ll probably see more birds if you do it early in the morning, but any time of day you can do it is useful for us. To make it easier for you, we’ve extended the event to three days. Make yourself comfortable and watch the birds in your garden for an hour. Record the highest number of each bird species that you see at any one time.Then answer the other questions about other wildlife species that visit your garden during the year. Don’t worry if you don’t see anything over the hour, as it’s still really useful information. Good luck with your Birdwatch! Let us know what you see. You can go online at or use the survey form. Remember to share your wildlife news using #biggardenbirdwatch “It was a revelation to see who visited – I’m now hooked!” 1 2 3 4 5
  7. 7. 31 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 28 29 30 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 JanuaryPut out nutritious, high-fat foods, such as cheese, bird seeds, whole nuts, bird cakes and sunflower hearts, to help birds survive. Don’t forget water too! Your garden will be known as a tasty spot by the time the Birdwatch comes round. Count the wildlife that’s counting on you New Year’s Day Bank Holiday Bank Holiday (Scotland) 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 15 16 17 18 19 14 FebruaryTrim straggly hedges and bushes before the spring breeding season gets underway. Resist the temptation to wield your clippers if there are still berries on the bushes though – these provide birds with a food source over winter. Give your garden birds some love: put up a nestbox. National Nestbox Week National Nestbox Week National Nestbox Week National Nestbox Week BGBW results deadline National Nestbox Week National Nestbox Week
  8. 8. 1 2 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 MarchAs the breeding season kicks off, birds will be on the lookout for nesting material. Give them a helping hand by leaving bundles of twigs, hay and moss in your garden. 3 Keep an eye on ponds for the first frogspawn of the year. St Patrick’s Day St David’s Day Mothering Sunday 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 3017 16 AprilKeep your bird feeders well stocked up for seed eaters such as finches and other farmland birds who often venture into gardens at this time of year for extra food. It’s Easter – but if there are any real Easter eggs in your garden, make sure you don’t disturb them. Good Friday Easter Monday RSPB Members’ Weekend RSPB Members’ Weekend St George’s Day
  9. 9. 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 2 MayBring your garden to life – sow colourful, nectar-rich flowers.They’ll provide food for bugs, bees and butterflies, plus they’ll look great too. Keep a look out for swifts returning from Africa. Bank Holiday Spring Bank Holiday 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 21 JuneLeave an area of your lawn uncut until late summer to create your own mini-meadow. Wildlife will love you for it, and it’ll give you a bit of a rest, too. Today’s the longest day, but birds like blackbirds and sparrows still need to raise another brood. Father’s Day
  10. 10. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 20 JulyRemember to keep your bird bath topped up during the warm summer months.The water you provide can be a lifeline for thirsty birds when natural supplies have dried up. At this time of year, many dragonflies are at their peak. Keep an eye out next time you’re near a lake or pond. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 15 August August is a great time to see pipistrelle bats in your garden. Look up to see them feeding on insects at dusk. Look out for moths on warm summer evenings. Summer Bank Holiday (Scotland) Summer Bank Holiday (England, NI) RSPB Big Wild Sleepout RSPB Big Wild Sleepout Bank Holiday (NI)
  11. 11. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 October Make your own compost and leaf piles. Not only will it be good for the garden, but the compost heap itself is great for all sorts of wildlife. Boo! Remember that spiders are nature’s pest controllers, so don’t scare them away. 1 2 3 4 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 5 September Create a water feature. Even if you don’t have space for a full-blown pond, a washing up bowl will provide a great place for wildlife to drink and bathe. Over the next couple of weeks, watch out for swallows and house martins congregating before they migrate to Africa. RSPB AGM & Members’ Day
  12. 12. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 26 27 28 29 30 31 25 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 December This is a great time of year to get planting. Fill gaps in your garden with a tree or shrub, such as hawthorn or holly, which are great news for birds and insects. Give your garden birds a tasty Christmas treat. 1 2 3 4 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 5 NovemberCreate a dead wood pile, using any sticks and logs. They’re great for insects, fungi, mosses and lichens, and if you’re lucky, a hedgehog or toad might take up residence. Remember, remember… to check your bonfire for hedgehogs before you light it, in case they’re hibernating in there. St Andrew’s Day Christmas Eve Boxing Day New Year’s Eve Remembrance Sunday
  13. 13. You can use this handy counting sheet during the Big Garden Birdwatch. Please count the most you see of each species at any one time, not the total seen over the hour. Then submit your results at or fill in and send us the survey form from the pack – don’t send this sheet! RobinGreat tit WoodpigeonBlue tit Which birds can you see? Long-tailed tit Look for a black stripe down its yellow front. The males have a slightly thicker stripe than the females. How many have you seen all at once? Unmistakable orange breast. Some visit from the Continent in winter. You can hear its song almost any time of year. How many have you seen all at once? Tiny body; long tail. Known affectionately as “bumbarrels” in some parts of the country. Often in groups. How many have you seen all at once? Blue is not the only colour on this tit. Look out for yellow on its front, green on its back and white on its face too. How many have you seen all at once? This large garden bird is mostly grey with a white patch on its neck. Often on the ground hoovering up fallen seed. How many have you seen all at once? Seen something else? Go to to find out what it might be. MagpieGreenfinchGoldfinch Look for the gold in its wings, but also the red on its head. More than one? A flock of goldfinches is called a charm. How many have you seen all at once? Bigger than goldfinches, greenfinches have a chunky beak to crack seeds. Look out for green/yellow in the wings. How many have you seen all at once? This large bird will feed on scraps. Look closely and you might see purples and greens in its iridescent feathers. How many have you seen all at once?
  14. 14. Female Look for its black neck collar. It came 11th in the 2016 Birdwatch, after only colonising the UK in the 1950s. How many have you seen all at once? Starling Look closely in winter and you’ll see lots of different colours in this mostly black bird, including white spots. How many have you seen all at once? Chaffinch Male Female Male chaffinches have a pinky-orange breast, while females are more brown. Both have distinctive white bars in their wings, which you can see well when they fly. They usually prefer feeding on the ground or a birdtable. How many have you seen all at once? Collared dove Dunnock Male Female Blackbird Males are black and females brown, both with yellow beaks. Often feed on the ground on fruit, worms or insects. How many have you seen all at once? Coal tit Smaller than a great tit, with a black head and white stripe down the middle at the back. How many have you seen all at once? The dunnock is a small streaky brown and grey bird. It feeds on the ground, flicking its wings nervously as it goes. How many have you seen all at once? Don’t forget to submit your results at or fill in the survey form from the pack and post it back to us! Great tit by Steve Round, blue tit by Tony Hamblin, woodpigeon by David Kjaer (all rspb-images. com), robin (Alamy Stock Photo), magpie, goldfinch and dunnock (all, male chaffinch (thinkstock), female chaffinch, greenfinch, starling, female blackbird, male sparrow, female sparrow and collared dove (all ), long-tailed tit, male blackbird and coal tit (all The RSPB is a registered charity in England and Wales 207076, in Scotland SC037654. 356-0922-16-17. House sparrow Although still at the number one spot in the 2016 Birdwatch, results show that house sparrows have declined by 58% since 1979. The male has a grey head, black bib and brown streaky back, while the female is more brown all over. How many have you seen all at once? Male
  15. 15. You will need: • 170g/6oz butter • 170g/6oz brown sugar • 170g/6oz caster sugar • 1 egg • ½ tsp vanilla extract • 260g/9oz plain flour • ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda • 85g/3oz oats • 85g/3oz sunflower seeds 1. Preheat oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas Mark 6. 2. Grease and line a baking tray. 3. Cream together butter, brown sugar and caster sugar. 4. Add the egg and vanilla extract, and beat. 5. Add flour, bicarbonate of soda and oats, and mix well, blending in sunflower seeds. 6. Knead to a smooth paste. 7. Form into 2.5cm (1 inch) rounds, spaced 2.5cm (1 inch) apart. 8. Bake in a preheated oven for 15 minutes, until golden brown. 9. Cool on a wire rack, and enjoy with your RSPB coffee whilst you take part in the Birdwatch. 10. Feed any leftover sunflower seeds to your birds. Birdwatch biscuits For you Count the wildlife that’s counting on you Cookies by You will need: • Yogurt pots • String • Scissors • Suet or lard 1. Using scissors, make a hole in the bottom of the yogurt pot. 2. Thread string through the hole and tie a knot on the inside. Leave enough string so that you can tie the pot to your tree or a birdtable. 3. Allow the lard to warm to room temperature, cut it up into small pieces, and add to a bowl. 4. Add the other ingredients to the bowl, and mix them together with your fingertips. 5. Keep adding the seeds, raisins and cheese, and knead until it is all held together by the fat. 6. Fill the yogurt pot with the bird cake mixture, and put it in the fridge to set for an hour or two. 7. Hang your bird cakes from trees or your bird table. Watch out for greenfinches, tits, and even great spotted woodpeckers. NB: Don’t use raisins if you have a dog, as they are poisonous to them. Birdcake For the birds Birdcake image by Eleanor Bentall ( The RSPB is a registered charity in England and Wales 207076, in Scotland SC037654. 356-0922-16-17. ITM005236. 409432. • Mixing bowl • RSPB bird seed • Raisins • Grated cheese Count the wildlife that’s counting on you

RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch Results

If you’re looking for some time out, a lovely and relaxing activity that you can take part in this weekend is the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch 2017 – simply spending a restful, restorative hour watching and counting birds.

The RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch is a delightful activity to share. You could snuggle up by the fire and count the birds you see from your window, or wrap up warmly to count birds in the park, or at your allotment. The RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch is a lovely activity to share with a friend.

If you apply to the RSPB ahead of time, they will send you a useful, informative pack to help you identify the birds you see, but don’t worry if you’re just reading this now – you can find all the information online at the RSPB’s website here.

The RSPB have created a useful guide to help you identify garden birds.

The RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch has been extended for 2017, this year the bird watch will cover the weekend of Saturday 28th January 2017 and Sunday 29th January 2017, as well as Monday 30th January 2017. You’ll find lots of information on the RSPB’s website, including an online counting tool, and pictures to help you identify the birds you see.

You only count the number of birds you see at one time, this is so that you avoid just counting the same bird over and over – so if you see one Magpie, then he disappears, and then you see another Magpie, you still count one. But if you see two Magpies at the same time, you count two. Otherwise you could just be counting the same Magpie over and over again!

Today I joined some friends to take part in the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch 2017, we spent a very special, happy hour together counting birds. This afternoon, during our hour of birdwatching, we saw the following birds:

  • 2 Blue tits
  • 2 Buzzards
  • 2 Mistle thrushes
  • 1 Blackbird
  • 1 Black cap
  • 1 Coal tit
  • 1 Dunnock
  • 1 Long-tailed tit
  • 1 Magpie
  • 1 Robin
  • 1 Wood pigeon

Surveys like the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch are important, everyone that completes the bird watch and submits their findings to the RSPB is contributing vital data to help the RSPB understand more about British birds. The results from the Big Garden Birdwatch reveal what birds are present in our gardens at this time of year, and give an indication of how the birds in our gardens are fairing at this time. Don’t forget to submit your results so the RSPB can evaluate the findings and learn more about the distribution of birds across the United Kingdom. To , where you can also sign up to be an RSPB member, simply by clicking here.

I wish you a lovely and relaxing weekend.

Blue tits.

A coal tit.

A blue tit.

A Mistle thrush.

A blue tit.

A Mistle thrush eating an ivy berry.

RSPB Big Garden BirdWatch 2018 Results.

RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch 2016 Results.

Other links and articles that may interest you………..

To visit the RSPB’s website, .

For more information about the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch 2017, .

To see what birds I spotted when I took part in the Big Garden Birdwatch 2016, .

To read the results of my 2016 Peat Free Compost Trial, .

To read about winter flowering plants, .

For information about how you could help hedgehogs, .

To read about terrariums and bottle gardens, .

To read about growing indoor mushrooms, .

To read the first part of my miniature orchid trial, .

To read about beautiful hollies, .

For information on natural ways to protect your plants from slugs and snails, .

To read about the top twenty shortlisted plants, including the finalists and the winner of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show Plant of the Year 2016, .

To read about the Rose of the Year Competition and the Festival of Roses at the RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show 2016, .


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