Blogger: Erica Howe, Communications Officer

With a few days of January left all I can say is it has been a funny old month! I’ve seen people out and about wearing flip flops, I’ve even seen folk out in the city with shorts on. I’ve seen people eating their lunch outside and I’ve been out on my bike with only a few light layers on. Hardly typical behaviour for January. Then again, looking out my window it has started to snow.

Here at the RSPB, we’ve also had a few ‘odd’ wildlife reports throughout the month. Frog spawn has been discovered and ladybirds have become more active because of the mild weather.  I think it’s safe to say that this weather is turning everything  topsy-turvy.

Perhaps, and even more surreal, this weekend was the RSPB’s Big Garden Bird Watch - The world’s biggest garden bird survey! A weekend where historically we’ve battled snow, gales and torrential rain to sit and watch the birds coming in to find respite in our gardens. Seeking comfort from feeders packed full of goodness and nestboxes left for shelter from the elements.

This weekend was exceptional to say the least. With temperatures up to 8 degrees, fog and rain on its way, we’re in for an interesting time of surveying!

Big Garden Bird Watch is a fantastic thing to take part in; you grab a cuppa, a sandwich and take a relaxing hour to watch your garden wildlife with your family. With so many pairs of eyes watching and recording their garden birds on the same weekend, we gather a lot of data – in fact, a huge amount!  By analyzing all your counts and comparing results across all years, we can find out how our garden birds are faring. Your counts inform our important conservation work since it helps us to identify what species most need our help.  We can then prioritize our research work and identify measures to help the species, which are shown to be struggling.  So, it might have seemed like a relaxing, enjoyable way to spend an hour this weekend but it’s also fundamental to the conservation work taking place across the UK. Your small step really does make a huge difference.

The data from past Big Garden Bird Watches have helped us to understand that once common birds like house sparrow and starling have declined greatly in the last 25 years.  Song thrush too is a well known and much loved garden bird, but it's certainly not as familiar as it once was.  It is amazing to think that Big Garden Bird Watch and similar surveys have shown the UK populations of house sparrow have declined by over 60% and starlings by 78%!  In time, we hope that declining species will recover and we and future generations will be able to continue to enjoy their company in our gardens. 

So let us know how your Big Garden Bird Watch went and send us your photos on our RSPBintheEast Twitter or Facebook pages – the best ones get a FREE bird feeder.

Article in Saturday 28 January Eastern Daily Press

Photo: Dunnock by Ray Kennedy (