Take part in backyard bird survey

BIRDS EYE: A male European blackbird sits among grass.

BIRDS EYE: A male European blackbird sits among grass.

The seventh annual Garden Bird Survey gets under way today, with last year’s results showing that the house sparrow is still the most prolific species in our back gardens.

It seems that a pattern may be emerging, with the 2012 statistics confirming previous years’ results showing silvereyes taking silver, starlings the bronze, and blackbirds back in fourth.

Organiser Eric Spurr says the survey provides valuable data on trends in garden bird populations, which could boost conservation efforts, such as the Greater Wellington Regional Council and the Department of Conservation’s rat, possum and stoat control programmes.

The pest control operations have helped to boost native bird numbers in urban bush reserves like Karori’s Zealandia wildlife sanctuary, and the survey shows that populations of tui are relatively high in the Wellington region.

But there is little evidence yet of an increase in native birds in gardens across the region as a whole.

The survey also provides useful information about variations in bird populations throughout the country.

“Yellowhammer counts are much higher in Wellington than anywhere else, and I’m still trying to get to the bottom of that,” Mr Spurr says.

As expected, there are far fewer mynas in the capital than further north. “But for most species, Wellington results are generally typical of the country as a whole.”

In the long term, researchers want to find out whether the number of birds, especially natives such as tui, fantails, bellbirds, kereru and grey warblers, are increasing or decreasing in Kiwi gardens.

Its main purpose is to monitor long-term trends and regional variations, for use by other scientists.

A total of 4060 people participated in survey nationally last year, of which 753 (18.5 per cent) were from the Wellington region.

In total, 156,977 birds were counted in last year’s survey, of which 23,900 were tallied in Wellington.

The survey is done over one hour and should be completed between today and next Sunday, July 7. Anyone who can identify birds in their gardens can take part.

To take part in the survey, go here.

Spotted: decline in common birds

House sparrows, blackbirds and wood pigeons are the most commonly-spotted feathered visitors to Leicestershire gardens, according to a national survey.

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds has released the results of its annual Big Garden Birdwatch, carried out during the last weekend in January.

More than 8,000 people in the county took part in the survey, which nationally showed a dramatic decline in the number of previously-common birds including sparrows and starlings.

Locally, the top 10 species spotted in gardens during the birdwatch were: house sparrow, blackbird, wood pigeon, starling, blue tit, goldfinch, chaffinch, long-tailed tit, great tit and robin.

Kay West, of Great Glen, was among those who took part in the survey, and was thrilled to spot a sparrowhawk – not the usual bird-table visitor – perched on her garden fence.

She said: “We have a fair number of birds in the garden – even a pheasant – but the sparrowhawk was something else.”

The RSPB stressed the importance of providing suitable habitats for different species of bird to nest and feed, something Thurmaston resident and bird fan Pam Nethercot said she supported.

She said: “We have a big, 150ft garden with lots of feeders and nest boxes so get a variety, including greenfinches, goldcrests, robins and great tits.”

Margaret Briggs, of Birstall, who also took part in the survey, said: “My main passion is flowers but our garden also has nesting boxes and feeding stations for the birds and insects.

“My husband, Stuart, and I have recorded about 70 different species of bird in the garden, ranging in size from herons to wrens.”

Martin Harper, RSPB conservation director, said: “We know from the many people who take part in Big Garden Birdwatch that garden birds are incredibly precious to us.

“I had the joy of doing the birdwatch with my children this year and, fidgeting aside, it was one of those memorable mornings when the family is captivated by nature.

“Gardens make up about 4 per cent of land area in the UK and their role as habitats for our wildlife is clear. They are the places birds come to for food and shelter when conditions in the countryside are especially tough.

“We can all play a part in making them more welcoming for wildlife, whether we have a garden full of greenery, a yard or a window box.”

Turn to p28 to see readers’ pictures of their gardens, including some taken by Kay and Pam.

Further details about how to protect birds and garden wildlife can be found by visiting:

 source : thisisleicestershire.co.uk