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Ups and Downs in Suburbia

Record breaking survey soars higher

This year's Big Garden Birdwatch, organised by the RSPB (BirdLife in the UK), enjoyed record participation. The results reveal more than 470,000 people, including 86,000 children, watched their gardens and local parks during the weekend of 28-29 January.

A staggering 8.1 million birds from 80 different species were counted in more than 270,000 gardens.

Despite Big Garden Birdwatch going from strength to strength, the same cannot be said for some of the UK's garden birds. Where the number of participants has continued to grow, the RSPB has recorded a sharp decline in the number of some birds seen in the UK's gardens since 1979.

Although the House Sparrow Passer domesticus retained its top spot this year as the most common garden bird, its numbers are still massively down from levels at the beginning of Big Garden Birdwatch. With an average of just 4.41 sparrows seen per garden this year, compared to an average of 10 in 1979, the species has seen a decline of 56%.Having dropped off the top spot in 2004, the Common Starling Sturnus vulgaris continued to decline in 2006, with numbers per garden down to a quarter of those recorded in gardens in 1979.

"It's fantastic that there is so much interest in the wildlife around us with more people than ever enjoying the birds in their gardens. Even in the most built-up areas where you might not expect people to watch birds, Big Garden Birdwatch is extremely well supported. In Greater London, nearly 30,000 people spotted 400,000 birds this year." Said Richard Bashford, Big Garden Birdwatch co-ordinator.

However, it's not all bad news. The European Greenfinch Carduelis chloris and Winter Wren Troglodytes troglodytes have both seen their numbers increase over the past 27 years by 67% and 140% respectively, and many people noted larger numbers of Eurasian Blackbirds Turdus merula and Song Thrushes Turdus philomelos, probably due to colder winter weather this year. In fact, the Blackbird was also the most widespread species, recorded in 94% of all gardens.

In addition to the big increases seen in Big Garden Birdwatch, more than 1,300 schools involving 35,000 children and their teachers took part in Big Schools' Birdwatch. Children, with the blessing of their teacher, spent an hour gazing out of their classroom window to count the birds that share their school environment. The full results for the Schools' Birdwatch will be out in early April.

4th July 2014