The RSPB‘s Big Garden Birdwatch results arrived through my letterbox today, together with a new keyboard, a vital necessity after I tipped a glass of lemon squash into my previous one on Monday, annihilating the entire bottom row of keys, and most of the upper right. Two pieces of post that made me very happy, with all due thanks to my postman for continuing to provide a brilliant service when they are under serious pressure as all of us turn to online orders.
Compared to our first 1979 survey, Big Garden Birdwatch results show declines in once common species such as greenfinch and chaffinch – mirroring the loss of wildlife in the wider countryside. Yet there are signs of hope – in the last decade numbers of some garden species, including house sparrows, goldfinches and great tits appear to have increased, showing signs of potential recovery. The version of the results sent to me was the version produced for residents in Wales, which was particularly interesting.
- House sparrows are still on top, and although numbers have been in decline since 1979, the rate of fall shows signs of slowing.
- Blue tits show a rise in numbers, and we certainly have a lot around here
- Starlings are down, although still common. They say that starlings were spotted in 80% of Welsh gardens, but I have never seen one here.
- Blackbirds, one of my real favourites, are down. Apparently a lot of chicks are lost at nesting time, and they can be helped by leaving hedges uncut and providing them with mealworms (which the robins and blue tits go crazy for too, at least in my garden)
- Chaffinches are down, but in Wales they were reported in 47% of gardens. I have seen one this year
- Great tits are 12% up over the last 10 years, and we always have plenty in Aberdovey
- Goldfinches, permanent residents in my garden are up an incredible 50% in the last decade. A group of goldfinches, incidentally, is called “a charm.”
- Long-tailed tits are on their way up. The last time I saw one was in the park over the road from my house when I lived in London. They are enchanting.
- Robins were seen in 87% of Welsh gardens (mine included) but overall have fallen by almost one third since 1979.
- Magpies are on their way up and are doing well in Wales. They are forever quarrelling with the jackdaws in my garden, and are often here when the pheasants visit, perhaps knowing that peanuts will be forthcoming
Interestingly, just as happened last year, the pheasants moved in to my gardens and neighbouring gardens for the winter, and have now headed off again, rarely visiting.
A lot of birds are losing their natural habitats, like hedgerows, and climate change is impacting some species, like the puffin. And have you seen a chough hereabouts? I had never heard of them but they are crows with crimson beaks and red legs, that need cliff-top farmland for nesting and feeding sites. There are only a few hundred pairs still remaining in Wales.