Look out for birds this weekend

23 January 2009

Get your binoculars and bird seed ready. This weekend is the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch.

People all over the UK will spend an hour recording the birds they see in their garden for the survey’s 30th anniversary.

Anyone can take part and the information the survey collects is one of the important ways the public can help track bird numbers around the UK.

The British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) has a year-round project to gather information on how birds use gardens, a more and more important habitat for wild birds as other natural habitats decline.

Changing species numbers

Over the years, the RSPB survey and BTO research has shown changes in UK bird populations. There has been an increase in, for example, the collared dove and wood pigeon, but serious declines in the house sparrow (Passer domesticus), song thrush (Turdus philomelos) and starling (Sturnus vulgaris).

The reasons for many of these declines are not fully understood which makes monitoring their numbers and distribution all the more important.

Importance of public surveys

Getting the public’s help with wildlife surveys is crucial and means scientists can get up-to-date information about population numbers.

The Natural History Museum’s annual bluebell survey relies on the public’s participation too. In partnership with Plantlife and the Ramblers' Association, it collects sightings of bluebells and the results help scientists work out if the native bluebell is being threatened by two other species, the Spanish bluebell and the hybrid.

In March, the Museum in partnership with OPAL, will be carrying out an earthworm survey. For such a common creature, surprisingly little is know about them and the public’s observations should help change this.

The RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch survey is during 24-25 January and the Museum’s bluebell survey begins in the Spring when the bluebells appear.