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Across Cheshire, 20,900 take part in the record-breaking RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch 

The number of nature lovers who took part in the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch soared to a million people this winter after a year of lockdown restrictions saw people turn to nature for comfort. 

Now in its 42nd year, the Big Garden Birdwatch is a chance for people of all ages to count the number of birds that visit their garden, helping the RSPB build up a picture of how birds are faring. This year, over a million people across the country took part counting 17 million birds, with nearly 20,900 taking part across Cheshire.   

Hopes were raised for a bumper participation year after results from a YouGov survey revealed the pandemic is making the public more aware of nature in their local area, with 41% seeing wildlife near their homes over the last 12 months that they had never noticed before.    

The YouGov survey of 2,071 adults across the UK revealed 63% of people said watching the birds and hearing their song added to their enjoyment of life since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, with more than half of those surveyed (51%) believing the pandemic has made them more aware of the nature around them.    

When the final Big Garden Birdwatch results were counted, the RSPB was blown away by the phenomenal response from the public. Over the first three days of submissions alone, numbers were up 85% compared to the same time period in 2020.   

Beccy Speight, RSPB CEO said: “We have been blown away by the enthusiasm with which people have taken part in the Birdwatch this year. Lockdowns have brought few benefits, but the last year has either started or reignited a love of nature for many people, right on their doorsteps.  

“This winter has been a bleak ordeal but as the dawn chorus starts to burst into song and the blossom starts to flower from the trees once more, we are emerging from this pandemic a new generation of nature lovers.   

“We hope the Birdwatch has kindled a new passion for wildlife for the thousands who took part for the first time this year – we need every voice raised to stand up for nature. The wildlife that gave us so much interest and solace is now just a fraction of what should be there. On the back of this wave of public support, we need the government to take the global leadership, policy and legislative opportunities open to it this year to reverse the decline and restore nature now.”  

The charity is also urging members of the public to take care as they return to the countryside near them as nature’s busiest season is underway. As breeding season begins, birds and other wildlife could be nesting nearby, with over half of England’s most threatened breeding birds nesting on or near the ground. To be sure to help the wildlife near you this spring, be sure to follow the Countryside Code when exploring your local area. 

The Big Garden Birdwatch, which was held over the last weekend in January, revealed that nationally the house sparrow held on to its number one spot, but 16 out of the top 20 bird species showed declines in average counts compared to last year. Starling slid down the ranking from 2nd place for the first time since 2010, with numbers down 83% since 1979. Further national declines were recorded for greenfinch and chaffinch, with the lowest average for both types of bird ever recorded during the Big Garden Birdwatch. Only robins, blackbirds, carrion crows and the song thrush saw an increase on 2020 across the UK.  

Over its four decades, Big Garden Birdwatch has highlighted the winners and losers in the garden bird world. It was first to alert the RSPB to the decline in song thrush numbers, which are still down 78% compared to the first Big Garden Birdwatch in 1979.  This species was a firm fixture in the top 10 in 1979. By 2009, its numbers were less than half those recorded in 1979, it came in at 20th in the rankings this year, seen in just 9% of gardens.   

The house sparrow remained at the top of the Big Garden Birdwatch rankings in Cheshire as the most commonly seen garden bird. Found in over 65% of Cheshire gardens, across the country more than 2.6 million house sparrows were sighted throughout the weekend. Meanwhile, blackbirds and blue tits joined house sparrows to form the top three most sighted birds in Cheshire as local people enjoyed watching the wildlife found in their gardens.  

Beccy added: “One way you can help revive our world is to bring nature to you. Your garden, balcony, and even windowsill are potential havens for wildlife, and in April we’re launching a digital platform, Nature on Your Doorstep, to help show you how.”    

Throughout the first half of the spring term the nation’s school children took part in the RSPB’s Big Schools Birdwatch. The UK-wide survey of birds in school grounds saw over 21,000 school children and their teachers spend an hour in nature counting the birds. Woodpigeon was the most numerous species seen with an average of 9 per school; and was seen in 85% of all schools that took part. Blackbird was a close second with an average of 8 per school.   

For a full round-up of all the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch results and to see which birds were visiting gardens where you live, visit www.rspb.org.uk/birdwatch    

Discover more about the RSPB’s exciting new Nature on Your Doorstep resources here: www.rspb.org.uk/yourdoorstep   

  1. The RSPB is the UK’s largest nature conservation charity, inspiring everyone to give nature a home. Together with our partners, we protect threatened birds and wildlife so our towns, coast and countryside will teem with life once again. We play a leading role in BirdLife International, a worldwide partnership of nature conservation organisations.  
  2. To find out the top birds counted in your publication’s local area, please visit: www.rspb.org.uk/birdwatch   
  3. For more guidance on how to protect breeding birds this spring, see here 
  4. The top 20 birds in 2021 RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch:

Rank  

Species  

Average per garden  

% of gardens species recorded in 2021  

% change in average count since 2020  

LONG TERM Average per garden% change 1979 - 2021  

Change over the last decade  

1  

House sparrow  

4.2  

62  

 -11  

-57.8  

 11.9  

2  

Blue tit   

2.7  

76  

 -8  

9.6  

  0.2  

3  

Starling  

2.6  

37  

 -14  

-82.6  

 -14.4  

4  

Blackbird  

2.4  

85  

 +11  

-40.7  

 -13.8  

5  

Woodpigeon  

2.3  

76  

 -1  

1029.2  

 28.2  

6  

Robin  

1.5  

82  

 +11  

-24.6  

 4.9  

7  

Great tit   

1.4  

53  

 -9  

57.1  

 6.5  

8  

Goldfinch  

1.4  

28  

 -18  

Data not available  

 Data not available  

9  

Magpie  

1.2  

54  

 -2  

191.9  

 29.5  

10  

Long tailed tit   

1.0  

24  

 -23  

Data not available  

 Data not available  

11  

Chaffinch  

1.0  

30  

 -8  

-67.9  

  -43.9  

12  

Collared dove  

0.8  

35  

 -19  

188.2  

 -27.5  

13  

Dunnock  

0.8  

39  

 -8  

-2.4  

 -17.1  

14  

Coal tit   

0.7  

33  

 -1  

279.2  

 9.5  

15  

Jackdaw  

0.7  

20  

 -6  

Data not available  

 Data not available  

16  

Feral pigeon  

0.6  

16  

 -12  

Data not available  

 Data not available  

17  

Carrion crow   

0.6  

22  

 +2  

Data not available   

 Data not available   

18  

Wren  

0.3  

23  

 -2  

76.8  

 10.0  

19  

Greenfinch  

0.3  

11  

 -20  

-71.9  

 -63.9  

20  

Song thrush  

0.1  

9  

 +12  

-78.4  

 -48.9  

5. RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch survey is the largest citizen science survey in the UK and is a part of the RSPB’s Centre for Conservation Science. The Centre was set up with the aim of finding practical solutions to the most pressing conservation problems, whether it’s working out how to save a species on the verge of extinction or restoring a destroyed rainforest.  

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