Lockdown birdwatch should give valuable data to RSPB research

A robin feeding in a garden.

A robin feeding in a garden ready to be counted in the Big Garden Birdwatch. - Credit: DENISE BRADLEY

Thousands of families across East Anglia are expected to have taken part in 2021's Big Garden Birdwatch, which has become one of the most important wildlife surveys in the country.

This year's event is the 42nd and the RSPB, which organises it every year, thinks more people than ever could have taken part because people's interest in the natural world has increased during lockdowns.

Many have also combined wildlife watching with their daily exercise.

Watching birds and listening to birdsong have helped people during the pandemic, polling suggests, in the run-up to the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch.

Sparrows on a bird feeder

Sparrows enjoying a bird feeder during the birdwatch. - Credit: DENISE BRADLEY

The wildlife charity is expecting high levels of participation in its annual survey of garden birds at the weekend and is encouraging people to take part to help “lift spirits” in the latest lockdown.

A survey for the RSPB by YouGov ahead of the birdwatch revealed that nearly two thirds of those polled (63%) felt watching birds and hearing their song added to their enjoyment of life, especially in the last 12 months.

More than half (51%) of the 2,071 adults quizzed said the coronavirus pandemic had made them more aware of the nature around them, while two fifths (41%) said they had spotted wildlife in their local area they had not noticed before.

A female blackbird

A female blackbird feeding in a garden during the Big Garden Birdwatch. - Credit: DENISE BRADLEY

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Beccy Speight, the RSPB’s chief executive, said: “Lockdowns have brought few benefits, but the last year has either started or reignited a love of nature for many people.”

The Big Garden Birdwatch is an important tool for monitoring the fortunes of common garden birds, with house sparrows and starlings occupying the number one and two spots in 2020 - but with data over the past four decades showing declines in both species. Blue tits were third in 2020.

Sparrows feeding in a garden.

House sparrows returned to the top of the Birdwatch tree last year. - Credit: DENISE BRADLEY

Two more garden favourites, blackbirds and robins, have also seen significant declines since the survey began in 1979, the RSPB said.

The results of the birdwatch and a "top ten" of garden visitors are expected to be released by the RSPB later in the year - which should also reveal how many people took part in this year's survey.

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