Do birds sud­denly ap­pear?

Country Life Every Week - - Town & Country - Edited by An­nun­ci­ata El­wes

THIS year, the RSPB cel­e­brates 40 years of count­ing lit­tle flut­ter­ing wings; since 1979, eight mil­lion hours have gone to­wards the in­valu­able pur­suit of record­ing 130 mil­lion birds, in­volv­ing hun­dreds of thou­sands of peo­ple.

In that time, our skies have changed dra­mat­i­cally. The song thrush was soar­ing in 1979, but num­bers have plum­meted to less than half what they were then. The star­ling has also suf­fered an alarm­ing de­cline and the house spar­row (be­low right), num­bers of which are down 57% in four decades, is ac­tu­ally up 17% since 2009. More pos­i­tively, the Bird­count has shown an in­crease in pop­u­la­tions for the col­lared dove and wood pi­geon.

Reg­is­tra­tion is open and RSPB Big Gar­den Bird­watch vol­un­teers are sought to spend an hour record­ing birds on Jan­uary 26–28. Visit www. rspb.org.uk/bird­watch to regis­ter. There’s also a Big Schools’ Bird­watch be­tween Jan­uary 2 and Fe­bru­ary 22; visit www.rspb.org.uk/school­swatch.

Next up is the Big Farm­land Bird­count on Fe­bru­ary 8–17 (www.bfbc. org.uk), when farm­ers, land man­agers and game­keep­ers are in­vited to spend half an hour spot­ting species. The re­sults will in­form the GWCT as to which birds need help. Last year, more than 1,000 farm­ers took part, sur­vey­ing some 950,000 acres. Of the 121 species recorded, 25 were red-listed and field­fares (above) were among those most com­monly seen.

‘Over the past four decades, farm­ers have car­ried out a huge amount of work to en­cour­age wildlife and are re­spon­si­ble for pro­tect­ing, main­tain­ing and en­hanc­ing 70% of the na­tion’s iconic coun­try­side,’ says NFU pres­i­dent Minette Bat­ters, who will be birdspot­ting on the first day of the count on her farm in Wilt­shire; the NFU is the main spon­sor for the event. ‘I would en­cour­age as many farm­ers as pos­si­ble to par­tic­i­pate as this is cru­cial in the sur­vival and pro­tec­tion of many farm­land bird species.’

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