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Wilmslow Express - - CITY LIFE LOCAL -

ORE than 585,000 peo­ple across the coun­try took part in this year’s RSPB Big Gar­den Bird­watch, spend­ing an hour over the week­end of Jan­uary 24 and 25 watch­ing their gar­dens and record­ing any feath­ered friends which made a fly­ing visit – close to a 100,000 in­crease on 2014.

In Greater Manch­ester, nearly 16,500 peo­ple took part, help­ing to con­trib­ute to the na­tional re­sults.

The re­sults are now in, and over­all more than eight-and-a-half mil­lion birds were spot­ted, mak­ing it an­other bumper year for the Bird­watch.

Re­fresh­ingly, sight­ings of ev­ery bird that fea­tured in this year’s na­tional top 20 in­creased on the num­bers recorded in 2014, apart from finches – a trend which was also seen in Greater Manch­ester with lower num­bers of chaffinch, goldfinch and green­finch com­pared to last year.

How­ever, the av­er­age num­ber of robins seen vis­it­ing gar­dens na­tion­ally was at its high­est since 2011, help­ing it climb three places to num­ber seven in the Big Gar­den Bird­watch rank­ings, its joint high­est-ever po­si­tion. The robin also climbed up the sight­ings rank­ings from eleventh to eighth po­si­tion in Greater Manch­ester.

Black­bird was an­other climber, mov­ing to num­ber three and be­com­ing the UK’s most wide­spread gar­den bird af­ter be­ing spot­ted in more than 90 per cent of UK gar­dens. In Greater Manch­ester, black­birds fell from third to fourth po­si­tion, but were seen in 88pc of gar­dens – an in­crease on last year.

De­spite be­ing the UK’s small­est gar­den bird, twice as many peo­ple picked out a wren call­ing by their gar­den this year than in 2014, con­sol­i­dat­ing its place in the top 20 most popular gar­den birds na­tion­ally.

In Greater Manch­ester, the wren flew into 22nd po­si­tion af­ter be­ing spot­ted in 24pc of gar­dens com­pared to 15pc last year.

The lack of finches at the bird ta­ble and feed­ers may not sig­nal fur­ther bad news, es­pe­cially for the al­ready de­clin­ing green­finch, as a bet­ter seed sup­ply in the coun­try­side means that we saw fewer vis­it­ing our gar­dens.

How­ever, this beau­ti­ful bird has de­clined na­tion­ally by 53pc since 1979, and any hint of a fur­ther re­duc­tion in num­bers is wor­ry­ing.

Tri­chomono­sis Dis­ease, also known as ‘canker’ has been a ma­jor doc­u­mented part of green­finch mor­tal­ity. In­trigu­ingly, the top four lo­ca­tions for green­finch in this year’s Big Gar­den Bird­watch are is­lands; Orkney Is­lands, Isle of Scilly, Eilean Siar and Isle of An­gle­sey, pos­si­bly sug­gest­ing the dis­ease hasn’t spread to th­ese ar­eas yet. This fur­ther high­lights the need to main­tain a high level of hy­giene at gar­den feed­ing sta­tions to halt the spread of Tri­chomono­sis.

There is slightly bet­ter news for the house spar­row, as its long term decline ap­pears to have con­tin­ued to slow, and it re­mains the most com­monly spot­ted bird in our gar­dens na­tion­ally.

How­ever, it re­mains a con­ser­va­tion con­cern as num­bers have dropped by 57pc since 1979.

For the sec­ond year run­ning, par­tic­i­pants were also asked to log some of the other wildlife they see in their gar­dens.

The RSPB asked whether peo­ple ever see slow worms and grass snakes as well as deer, squirrels, badgers, hedge­hogs, frogs and toads in their gar­dens, which were all added last year. This in­for­ma­tion, which will help build an over­all pic­ture of how im­por­tant our gar­dens are for giv­ing all types of wildlife a home, will be an­a­lysed and re­sults will be re­vealed next month.

The par­al­lel event, Big Schools’ Bird­watch, con­tin­ued the record- break­ing theme with more schools and chil­dren tak­ing part than ever be­fore. The UK-wide sur­vey of birds in schools had al­most 90,000 par­tic­i­pants and re­vealed that black­bird is the most com­mon play­ground vis­i­tor for the sev­enth year in a row.

The top three was rounded off by star­ling and house spar­row, which is now at its high­est-ever po­si­tion in the Big Schools’ Bird­watch rank­ings.

Big Gar­den Bird­watch and Big Schools’ Bird­watch are a part of the RSPB’s Giv­ing Na­ture a Home cam­paign, aimed at tack­ling the hous­ing cri­sis fac­ing the UK’s threat­ened wildlife.

The char­ity is ask­ing peo­ple to pro­vide a place for wildlife in their own gar­dens and out­side spa­ces – whether it’s putting up a nest box for birds, cre­at­ing a pond to sup­port a num­ber of dif­fer­ent crea­tures or build­ing a home for a hedge­hog.

Check out www. laugh­ing­bad­ger­gallery. com/ for more pic­tures.

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