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Surprising Ashbourne results in RSPB's Big Garden Birdwatch

By Ashbourne News Telegraph  |  Posted: April 07, 2014

  • Goldfinch

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ASHBOURNE families have helped highlight the changing behaviour of our bird population in the RSPB's Big Garden Birdwatch.

More than 8,800 people in the region took part in this year's annual survey, and the results for Derbyshire were very different from previous years.

Bluetits are now in their highest position since the survey began, at number two; the previous occupier of the second spot, blackbirds, have dropped to number three.

Goldfinches have climbed another place since last year, and now perch at number six while the robin, which has been as high as number seven in the past ten years, has dropped back to number ten.

Only ten years ago, goldfinches were in 14th position, but scientists believe that the increase in people providing food like nyjer seed and sunflower hearts in gardens, may have contributed to their steady rise.

Overall numbers of species such as blackbirds, fieldfares and redwings may appear to have dropped in our gardens since last year, but in many cases this is not because these populations are in decline but because these species don't need to come into our gardens during mild winters due to there being plenty of natural food available in the wider countryside.

Steve Brown, RSPB volunteer manager at Coombes Valley reserve, said: "Many garden birds rely on us humans for help.

"During winter, birds need extra food and water. At other times of the year, as well as sustenance, a safe place to shelter and make their home can really give them a boost.

"Two of the species that moved up the rankings this year, bluetits and goldfinches, are adaptable, friendly garden birds and great examples of birds that can flourish with our help. If we put up a nestbox, leave out some food or let our gardens grow a bit wild they'll be among the first to take advantage."

However the continuing declines of some species are of greater concern to experts. Numbers of starlings and song thrushes have dropped by an alarming 84% and 81% respectively since the Birdwatch began in 1979.

Both species are on the UK "red list", which means they are of the highest conservation concern.

There is slightly better news for the house sparrow, as the declines appear to have slowed, and it remains the most commonly seen bird in our gardens. However, it remains on the red list as the UK has still lost 62% of the population since 1979.

Richard Bashford, Big Garden Birdwatch organiser, said: "2014 was always going to be an interesting Big Garden Birdwatch as the winter has been so mild, and we wondered if it would have a significant impact on garden birds.

"They were out and about in the wider countryside finding natural food instead of taking up our hospitality.

"The good news is that this may mean we have more birds in our gardens in the coming breeding season because more survived the mild winter.

"It is a great time to give nature a home by putting up a nesting box and supplementary feeding."

This year, for the first time, participants were also asked to log some of the other wildlife they see in their gardens.

The RSPB asked whether people ever see deer, squirrels, badgers, hedgehogs frogs and toads in their gardens, to help build an overall picture of how important our gardens are for giving all types of wildlife a home.

This information will be analysed and results will be revealed next month.

As a result of the survey findings, the RSPB has launched a new campaign called Giving Nature a Home, which is aimed at tackling the housing crisis facing the UK's threatened wildlife.

The charity is asking people to provide a place for wildlife in their own gardens and outside spaces – whether it by planting pollen-rich plants to attract bees and butterflies, putting up a nestbox for a house sparrow, or creating a pond that will support a number of different species.

Further information is available online at www.rspb.org.uk/homes.

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