Which bird will be top of tree?

RESIDENTS in the Rye and Battle area are being asked to kep a close eye on their garden birds at the end of January for the RSPB’s annual Big Garden Birdwatch.

And the charity is appealing for more sets of eyes than ever before to step up for nature and help record the fortunes of our garden visitors given the mild winter conditions.

Last year a record breaking 8,575 people in East Sussex joined over 600,000 people across the UK, spotting the birds in their garden and helping to reveal a recovery for small birds.

The results put blue tits (right) as East Sussex’s most common bird in 2011, followed by house sparrows and starlings.

Samantha Stokes, of the RSPB South East, said: “Because this survey takes place each January it’s always interesting to compare results, especially if we’ve had a particularly harsh or mild winter.

“As well as helping us track the ups and downs of garden birds, if you take part in the Big Garden Birdwatch you’ll have the perfect excuse to sit down with a cuppa and enjoy the wildlife living alongside you.

“Everyone can get involved. You don’t have to be a birdwatcher – just enjoy watching the birds as they perch on branches, hang from feeders and swoop in and out of their nests in your garden.

“By taking part, you’ll contribute to the biggest garden bird event in the world and you won’t even have to leave the warmth of your armchair!”

Big Garden Birdwatch is one of the first indicators to show how well UK birds have fared during the previous breeding season and winter. With over half a million people taking part each year and over 30 years worth of data the results give an early indication of garden bird trends.

Recent harsh winters have seen some garden bird population’s drop, only to make a comeback after a good breeding season the following year.

The results from this year’s survey will show whether they have managed to maintain their numbers or even increased with the mild weather.

The RSPB keeps a watchful eye out for new and emerging trends from Big Garden Birdwatch results, which helped confirm that there was an alarming decline in birds like the house sparrow, starling and song thrush.

Miss Stokes continued: “It’s important we keep a close eye on how our birds are faring, like the house sparrow for example. With so many people stepping up and taking part in Big Garden Birdwatch, if a pattern emerges, we take it seriously. Over half a million people can’t be wrong and that’s why the survey is so important.

“As well as getting hundreds of thousands of people enjoying wildlife, it actually helps protect nature by showing the RSPB where we need to focus our efforts.”

To step up for nature and take part, simply spend one hour over the weekend of 28-29 January, counting the birds in your garden or local park, and record the highest number of each bird species seen at any one time.

For more information, including further event details, and to submit your results online, please visit the RSPB website www.rspb.org.uk/birdwatch or to request a Big Garden Birdwatch pack over the phone, please call 0300 456 8330.