The world’s biggest wildlife survey – the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch – takes place this Saturday and Sunday.
People are asked to set aside an hour over the weekend to record the number of birds in their garden – or a nearby open space such as a park.
Thousands of people are expected to take part, helping the RSBP to build a picture of the state of the nation’s wildlife.
The populations of many of our much loved gardens birds have declined over recent years, and the results collected by the Birdwatch help to paint a picture of how they are faring in people’s gardens.
The RSPB is particularly interested to find out what impact the warmest year on record in 2014 and the mild winter may have on the birds people count.
Although colder weather has moved in over the last few days, the overall warmer temperatures could mean that people see fewer birds in their gardens this year as they’ve been able to feed from wild berries and insects for longer into the winter.
Numbers of winter visitors from Scandinavia and Siberia such as waxwings, redwings, fieldfares and bramblings might also be lower than those counted in previous years as they have not needed to move to the UK thanks to plentiful food supplies in North Europe and Asia.
Each year the results are compared with those from all the previous surveys, building up a picture of bird numbers in gardens across the country, and giving an indication of potentially concerning trends.
When the Birdwatch kicks off you’ll be able to use the online bird counting tool to identify and record the birds as you see them directly on your laptop, tablet or smartphone. You can also take part with pen and paper and then enter your results on your computer or by filling in a paper survey form and posting it to the RSPB.
Results can be submitted until February 13 via the RSPB website www.rspb.org.uk/birdwatch or by post.
For the non-bird species, participants are asked to let the RSPB know if they ever see this wildlife in their gardens or local outside space at any time of year, rather than only during the Birdwatch hour.
Schools can also get involved with helping to count our birds and wildlife. Each year around 75,000 children and teachers take part in the Big Schools’ Birdwatch. This year’s Birdwatch began on January 5 and runs until February 13 and schools can pick any hour within this time to take part. Find out more about this great way of getting young people to connect with the nature in and around their school grounds at: www.rspb.org.uk/schoolswatch