Birdwatchers wanted for giant national survey

Last year's Birdwatch was a success.
Last year's Birdwatch was a success.
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More than 35,000 people across Scotland are expected to join in one of the country’s most popular annual citizen science projects this weekend.

Keen amateur naturalists are being asked to keep a lookout for birds and other creatures visiting their gardens and parks as part of the Big Garden Birdwatch, organised by wildlife conservation charity RSPB.

The results of the UK-wide survey will help experts gain a clearer picture of how some of the nation’s best-loved birds and animals are faring.

Last year close to half-a-million people across the UK took part, making the Big Garden Birdwatch the world’s largest wildlife survey.

More than 626,000 birds were counted in Scottish gardens, with house sparrows topping the list.

Starlings, chaffinches, blackbirds and blue tits made up the rest of the top five.

Though the five species have switched places a few times over the years, they have consistently held steady in the top rankings in Scotland for the past decade.

House sparrows have been the most commonly seen bird species since 2012.

Last year many people counted waxwings and other winter migrants during the survey as very cold weather in Scandinavia saw higher numbers than usual coming to the UK – a trend that occurs every seven to eight years.

“This year the weekend could be a good one for spotting some of our resident garden birds,” said Keith Morton, senior species policy officer at RSPB Scotland.

“The recent cold weather here means that birds will really be taking advantage of the food and water left out for them in gardens.

“It will be interesting to see if house sparrows can hold on to their number one spot for the seventh year in a row.”

People of all ages are encouraged to take part in the event, which is now in its 39th year.

Participants need to spend just one hour this Saturday, Sunday or Monday watching and counting any birds – and 15 other wildlife species – spotted in their garden or local outdoor space, then submit the results online.

Sightings of animals including badgers, foxes, grey squirrels, red squirrels, roe deer, frogs and toads should also be logged.

Mr Morton added: “The Big Garden Birdwatch is all about enjoying the wildlife on your doorstep.”

The co-event Big Schools Birdwatch has been taking place across the UK since the first week of January, and runs until 23 February.