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Garden BirdWatchers

…deliver a staggering 20 years of citizen science

Garden BirdWatchers deliver a staggering 20 years of citizen science

The British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) Garden BirdWatch survey is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, thanks to the dedication of its participants. Their hard work has allowed scientists to examine how, when and why birds and other wildlife use gardens and the resources that they contain, and there have been some ground-breaking findings. None of it could have been achieved without the support of ‘citizen scientists’, so your help is needed for us to continue for another two decades.

Gardens are often the place where people first encounter, and learn to love birds and other wildlife. In addition, they are an important habitat in their own right, supporting a wide range of species. Back in 1995, when BTO Garden BirdWatch started, however, gardens were less appreciated and funding was hard to come by. It is thanks to the generosity of BTO Garden BirdWatch supporters, who fund the survey, that it is still going strong 20 years later.

With an average of 29 bird species reported per garden, our participants have contributed an astonishing 7.3 million hours of their time over the last 20 years, submitting just under 100 million observations. This wealth of information has also allowed BTO researchers to produce an average of one scientific publication a year, including several investigating the decline of the UK’s House Sparrow population, first discovered through BTO’s garden-based data. It was also thanks to the contributions of our volunteers that scientists from BTO and the Institute of Zoology were able to reveal the impact of finch trichomonosis on the Greenfinch population, which has declined by 30% since 2005.

As well as its scientific outputs, the project also provides benefits for its community of Garden BirdWatch volunteers. As Clare Simm, from the Garden BirdWatch team commented, "The one thing that many of our volunteers comment on is how their knowledge has developed through watching their garden wildlife for Garden BirdWatch, as well as the interest that they gain from seeing the changes in the bird community over the years, all whilst collecting simple but incredibly important data on a weekly basis. Given how much has changed during the last 20 years, it will be fascinating to see what happens over the course of the next two decades."

If you watch birds and other wildlife in your garden then why not join this community of citizen scientists and develop your interest, while contributing to this fantastic national project?

To find out more about the BTO Garden BirdWatch, including receiving an enquiry pack and a free copy of our 20th anniversary magazine, please get in touch by emailing gbw@bto.org or telephoning 01842 750050, or writing to GBW, BTO, The Nunnery, Thetford, Norfolk, IP24 2PU.

More information can also be found at BTO News

Clare Simm

18th March 2015