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Events at Thurso and Latheron as part of RSPB's Big Garden Birdwatch this weekend


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Milly Revill Hayward, from RSPB Forsinard Flows, encourages people in the far north to take part in this weekend's Big Garden Birdwatch

Milly Revill Hayward, peatland engagement and communications officer at RSPB Fordinard Flows.
Milly Revill Hayward, peatland engagement and communications officer at RSPB Fordinard Flows.

This year marks the 44th year of Big Garden Birdwatch. The RSPB's flagship citizen science project is running this weekend from today until Sunday.

Since the RSPB first began the birdwatch in 1979, birdwatchers have spent over 9 million hours recording garden birds, amounting to more than 137 million birds counted.

For those taking part, it’s a way to contribute to the world's largest garden wildlife survey, connect with nature, and learn more about the wildlife in their local area. For the RSPB, it’s a vital snapshot into the state of Britain’s birdlife.

In 2023, for the 20th year running, the chirpy house sparrow came out on the top spot, closely followed by fellow garden favourites blue tit, starling, wood pigeon and blackbird.

You might also spot some less common visitors to your gardens – I’ve recently been spotting brambling and fieldfare in my garden, winter migrants arriving in the UK to escape harsh winters in Scandinavia. I’m hoping to spot them as I complete my birdwatch; to entice them and other species in, I’m going to pop a few apples out on the ground and some bird feeders on my tree, and hopefully I’ll find someone tucking in!

The records people send in during the Big Garden Birdwatch help to build a picture of how garden birds are faring across the UK. With over 40 years of data, we can track changes in bird populations, helping us to understand why and where bird numbers are increasing or decreasing, and what we can do to help them.

The RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch takes place from Friday to Sunday, January 26-28. Pictures: RSPB and Creative Commons
The RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch takes place from Friday to Sunday, January 26-28. Pictures: RSPB and Creative Commons

Fewer green spaces, pollution and a changing climate are just some of the challenges bird species are facing. There has been dramatic declines in the number of birds in UK skies over the last 50 years. Many species are at risk, with long-term negative trends in the numbers of house sparrow, long-tailed tit, greenfinch, song thrush and chaffinch all highlighting the fragility of our natural world.

Download your free guide and survey sheets from the RSPB website at www.rspb.org.uk/whats-happening/big-garden-birdwatch. Choose an hour over the weekend, find your survey patch, then record the birds that land there (don’t record those that are flying over). Remember to only record the highest number of each bird species you see at any one time.

For me, the best thing about the Big Garden Birdwatch is that anyone can take part, from the seasoned birdwatcher to the family getting involved for the very first time. You can also watch from wherever suits you, watching the feeders in your garden from a window or sitting on a bench in your local park or nature reserve.

If you’d like to do more for nature, why not put out some nest boxes for birds, bats and hedgehogs in your garden, or begin gardening with wildlife in mind? These small actions can make all the difference to your local wildlife.

You can look at the RSPB website for more ideas or join us at an upcoming event:

  • Big Garden Birdwatch: Friday, January 26, noon-4pm at Thurso Library.
  • Big Garden Birdwatch: Saturday, January 27, 1pm-3pm at Forse of Nature, Latheron.

Every count matters, so why not spend an hour taking part? Wrap up warm on a cosy perch and enjoy the watch.

  • Milly Revill Hayward is peatland engagement and communications officer at RSPB Forsinard Flows.

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