The warm, wet winter may have led to fewer visitors to bird tables because there have been plentiful natural food supplies in the countryside, according to the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch. ‘Overall numbers of birds were down across most gardens, but they didn’t need to rely on the food put out for them in the way they do in colder winters,’ explains the RSPB’s Daniel Hayhow.

This year’s survey, on January 25-26, which had almost 500,000 respondents, saw the house sparrow top the table with the blue tit in second place-the highest position it has achieved since the first count in 1979- and the great spotted woodpecker edging into the top 20 for the first time. Goldfinches were in seventh position, one place higher than last year. ‘Blue tits have responded to being fed and more nestboxes being put up and goldfinches have benefited from people using more specialist feed, such as nyjer seed and sunflower hearts,’ adds Dr Hayhow.

Despite some positive results, the RSPB remains worried about the continuing long-term declines of ‘red list’ species such as starlings and song thrushes, which have decreased by 84% and 81% respectively since Birdwatch began 35 years ago. ‘We’re still concerned about house sparrows b[down by 62% since 1979], song thrushes and mistle thrushes,’ confirms

Dr Hayhow. ‘Sparrows are doing bwell in Wales and the West, although we don’t really know why. They might be affected by fewer weedy edges to fields and by tidier gardens and parks.’

The BTO is also keen to work out what’s happening to thrushes. Visit bwww.bto.org/volunteer-surveys/ winter-thrushes for its winter survey.

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