Published: 00:01, 23 January 2019
Some 130 million birds have been counted during the last 40 years of the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch, giving us a greater understanding of how our wildlife is faring as the world around them changes.
Here's how to join in with the survey that tells us about our feathered friends in Kent.
They may go unnoticed for much of the year, but this weekend, the humble sparrow, blue tit and blackbird - and some of their more exotic cousins - will be firmly in the spotlight, as thousands take an hour out of their day to help nature.
The annual RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch, which has been running for 40 years, gives the charity a snapshot of how our wildlife is faring and is the world’s largest citizen science project.
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It’s free and you don’t even need a garden to take part. You just need to spare an hour watching and recording the birds in your garden, balcony birdfeeder or a local green space and then send the results off to the RSPB.
Over the years it has highlighted winners and losers in the garden bird world.
The humble sparrow remains at the top of the tree in terms of sightings but it isn’t all good news for the little fellow.
Results have shown national increases in collared dove and wood pigeon numbers and the alarming declines of the house sparrow and starling.
The UK decline in house sparrows since the Big Garden Birdwatch began is 57% (1979-2018).
In the South East their numbers fell 15% (2005 – 2018), though there was a 3.7% increase last year compared with 2017.
The results give the RSPB an astonishing amount of insight into how our wildlife is faring.
It was first to alert the RSPB to the decline in song thrush numbers. The song thrush was a firm fixture in the top 10 in 1979.
Last year in the South East they were in 21st place.
RSPB regional director Nic Scothern said: “I love taking part in Big Garden Birdwatch, and I’m always surprised by how many different birds there are right outside my own kitchen window.
Just taking 60 minutes to pause and actively look at nature gives me a fresh perspective on my own surroundings. It feels good to be part of something to help save nature.
“We can all do more to Give Nature a Home and our online activities will help you prepare for January’s Big Garden Birdwatch.
“Thanks to everyone who has participated over the past four decades we were able to identify and address a massive fall in the number of house sparrows. I’m delighted to say we’re now seeing their numbers slowly increase across the south east. Fingers crossed this year shows that trend continue, but we’ll only know that if people spare us an hour and contribute to the survey.”
As well as counting birds, the RSPB is also asking participants to log some of the other wildlife they have seen through the year. They’d particularly like to know about encounters with badgers, foxes, both grey and red squirrels, muntjac deer, roe deer, frogs and toads.
To take part in the Big Garden Birdwatch 2019, watch the birds in your garden or local green space for an hour at some point over the three days. Only count the birds that land, not those flying overhead.
Then send your results with the highest number of each bird species you see at any one time - so you don’t count the same bird more than once if it pops back during the time. Even if you don’t spot anything in your chosen hour, that data is needed too!
The RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch takes place from Saturday, January 26 to Monday, January 28.
Go to rspb.org.uk to download a free pack and find out more.