Big Garden Birdwatch returns 26th-28th January 2019 and will celebrate a very special anniversary. RSPB Scotland’s Jess Barrett brings you five facts you need to know about this wildlife survey.

Five things you need to know about Big Garden Birdwatch

1) Big Garden Birdwatch turns 40 in 2019

2019 marks Big Garden Birdwatch’s fortieth anniversary! It all began back in 1979 as a venture between the RSPB’s then youth membership group, the Young Ornithologists Club, and the BBC’s Blue Peter programme, to give children an activity to do during the winter months. Since then it’s gone from strength to strength to become the world’s largest garden wildlife survey, open to everyone to take part in. How many Birdwatch counts have you done over the years?

a parent and child look out their window to their garden

2) Over 3 million birds counted in five years

In the last five years alone 182,614 of you in Scotland have taken part in Big Garden Birdwatch and counted a whopping 3,073,500 birds. That’s a lot of feathered visitors to your gardens! 2018 proved to be a good year for goldfinch sightings, while the year before was a waxwing winter, and it was the wee pompom like long-tailed tits that many of you saw in 2016. 

3) Scotland is the place for red squirrel sightings

Over the last few Birdwatches we’ve also been asking you about the other wildlife that visits your garden throughout the year to build a picture of how these species are faring across the country. Red squirrels were once found across the UK but are now limited to a few places with parts of Scotland being strongholds for them, and this has been reflected in the results.

In the 2018 survey across the UK only 5.8% of those taking part had had a red squirrel in their garden in the past year, while in Scotland it was over six times as many at 37%. In fact, one in five of those taking part in Scotland had a red squirrel in their garden at least once a month. Perth and Kinross, Moray, Angus and Dumfries and Galloway were the places people were most likely to see them. Have you spotted one in your garden?

red squirrel eating a nut

4)  Chaffinches ruled the rankings at the 30th anniversary

Back in 2009 when Big Garden Birdwatch was celebrating its 30th anniversary it was chaffinches that ruled at the top of the spots in Scotland. Fast forward to 2018 and it was house sparrows who held the number one position, for the seventh year in a row. However, things haven’t changed all that much at the high end of the sightings. The birds that made up 2009’s top five – chaffinch, house sparrow, starling, blackbird and blue tit – are the same ones as in 2018, only in a different order – house sparrow, starling, chaffinch, blue tit and blackbird.

chaffinch on a branch with head cocked

5) Whatever the weather you Birdwatch!

Over the years the Big Garden Birdwatch weekend has had a variety of weather conditions from falling snow to heavy rain and wind, with other years having beautiful crisp January sunshine. Yet, whatever the weather tens of thousands of you take which is fantastic. Remember whatever you do or don’t see – even if there are no birds in your counting hour – your results are important.

Many of you get in touch with us over the Birdwatch days to share what you’ve seen and how you’re taking part; some people gather together as a family to count, others use their counting hour for a bit of “me time” with a good cup of tea. How do you like to Big Garden Birdwatch? You can sign up now to be part of the 2019 survey here: rspb.org.uk/birdwatch

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