Blackbirds top in Suffolk garden survey

BLACKBIRDS have taken the top spot in Suffolk in this year's RSPB's Big Garden Birdwatch survey - although bird numbers are down by a fifth since 2004.

Jonathan Barnes

BLACKBIRDS have taken the top spot in Suffolk in this year's RSPB's Big Garden Birdwatch survey - although bird numbers are down by a fifth since 2004.

The last weekend of January saw many thousands of people up and down the country take part in the RSPB's Big Garden Birdwatch in a bid to provide a valuable glimpse into our bird population.

In Suffolk, the blackbird was the top bird, with an average of 3.18 per garden - above the average of 2.45 per garden - and they were also the most widespread, seen in almost 97% of gardens.

Starlings were in second place with an average of 3.16 birds per garden, seen in 51% of gardens.

House sparrows came in third position, with just 3.10 per garden.

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The second most widespread bird in Suffolk was the robin, seen in 83% of gardens, but with an average of just 1.31 per garden.

Nationally, four species of finch, which spend the winter in the UK, have increased.

For the first time in the survey's 29-year history, the striking siskin makes it into the top 20, being seen in three times as many gardens as in 2007.

Results from the survey show that over the last five years siskin numbers have increased by almost two thirds.

Scarcer finch species such as brambling, moving from 57 to 36 in the rankings, and redpoll, seen in twice as many gardens this year as last, have been more numerous than usual.

But the decline in overall numbers of garden birds has been blamed on milder winters and long term declines of some species.

The RSPB's Dr Andre Farrar said: “It's definitely been a good winter for finches. Many of them are here because of food supplies.

“The increase in bramblings, up by two thirds in the last five years, reflects the scarcity of beech seed known as 'mast' in northern Europe and Scandinavia - if the mast crop is poor in these countries, we see more of them here in our gardens.

“Along with siskin increases, numbers of redpolls seen in gardens have skyrocketed. Again this is probably due to supply of food; both birds feed on conifers and deciduous seeds, so the figures suggest that tree seed supplies have been poor this year and they've been forced into gardens to find food.”

As predicted, the colourful goldfinch made it in to the top 10 for the first time, with a third more birds recorded than in 2004.

Dr Farrar added: “We're seeing numbers of goldfinches swell because our milder winters encourage them to stay here instead of going to southern Europe. Our gardens can be very welcoming to finches, especially those with nyjer seed provided and thistles and teasels left to grow which also provide food.”

Participants in Big Garden Birdwatch also noted an increase in song thrushes, with numbers up by 80pc, compared to last year.

This is probably thanks to last year's warm, wet summer, which made it easier for them to find snails, slugs and earthworms to feed their young.

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