The RSPB are holding their annual nationwide event, the Big Garden Birdwatch, from the 26th to the 28th of January. The aim is to take one hour to record the types and numbers of birds (and now other species) that can be seen in your own garden or local park to help the RSPB understand how birds and animals are doing.
The Big Garden Birdwatch is now in its fortieth year. In that time, we have seen some devastating drops in the numbers of not just birds, but also other animals across the country and indeed globally. Most if not nearly all this effect has been as a consequence of human activity as our species continues to ravage its way through the natural world consuming, polluting and breeding beyond the capacity of our planet.
If I was asked which type of bird I see most often in the city I would say the Robin, Blackbird, Starling, House Sparrow , Great Tit and Blue Tit so I was a little surprised when I looked at the 2018 Big Garden Birdwatch Scottish results. The Great Tit, Blackbird and Robin all saw drops in recorded numbers with the Blackbird down by 18% and the Robin by 12%.
The House Sparrow remained the most commonly sighted bird hitting the number one spot in the top ten garden birds in the UK. I certainly hear their noisy, uplifting chattering coming from hedgerows and bushes regularly! However, though there has been local population increases, overall these birds have suffered an estimated 71% decline in population numbers since 1977!
I can’t help but wonder about the birds that we don’t see anymore, the ones that have dropped out of the results altogether in the past forty years. And that although we can celebrate figures such as an increase in recorded sightings of Siskins and Greenfinches (which have suffered a 60% decline in population numbers since 1979) I worry that these (decimated) population numbers have become the new acceptable baseline.
Yet we need that baseline. We do need that baseline to inform us and we need people to be engaged and learn about wildlife if there is to be a start to the massive changes that are desperately needed. It is an action and action is now (sadly) absolutely imperative.
An hour long bird watch in the garden or local park may not be the most radical of actions, but if it encourages people to care about the wildlife on their doorstep, then it contributes to the fundamental shift that is required in our human activities. A small shift that I hope will soon become a sea change, eventually reversing the chronic damage we inflict unrelentingly on our planet.
It is also a very pleasant way to spend an hour, especially if you can get some fresh air at the same time away from the computer screen and be in the presence of the original (and best) tweeters! You don’t need to have a garden either, local parks are excellent for bird watching and learning what types of furry and feathered friends we share our green spaces with.
I’ll be taking part, getting to use my brand new Christmas gifted binoculars, I can’t wait!