Discover a world of wildlife in your garden

Wasp
At this time of year, our gardens and ponds are full of life such as wasps and tadpoles.

Natural Resource Wales is calling on people of all ages across Wales to step outside to explore the abundance of natural life to be found in their gardens as the world joins together to mark International Day for Biological Diversity (Friday, May 22).

As part of the annual celebrations, the United Nations has called on the global community to reinvigorate its relationship with nature and the many environmental benefits it delivers, including clean air and water, sustainable food supplies, and recovery and resilience to natural disasters.

The natural world is under threat here in Wales and NRW has a key role in tackling this emergency by protecting species and habitats and the sustainable management of our natural resources.

Graham Rutt, Ecological Data Specialist for NRW, explained:

“The UN International Day for Biological Diversity celebrates the wonderful diversity of nature and wildlife around our planet.

“The impact of Coronavirus has seen far more people inspired to explore nature in their communities and gardens getting to know the rich diversity of animals, insects and plants which share our homes.

“You don’t have to live in the countryside to enjoy nature – it’s all around you, even if you live in a town or city. Any green space will be home to a surprising number of species and you’ll be amazed at what you can find within walking distance of your home.”

So, what can you expect to find in your garden?

  • One of the traditional signs of spring is a garden full of butterflies. In the last few weeks, several different species of butterflies laid their eggs and their caterpillars will soon be emerging.
  • The first froglets are emerging in garden ponds in warmer areas and heading for abundant vegetation and long grass to hide in.
  • The first  damsel and dragonflies can be seen as the Spring progresses
  • Wildflowers are blooming in overlooked corners of our gardens creating unexpected colour and habitat for a variety of insects.
  • Bees are vital to healthy ecosystems through their role as pollinators and the first bumblebees can be seen busily gathering nectar and pollen

Tristan Hatton-Ellis is a habitats and species specialist advisor for NRW. He said:

“Lockdown is a difficult time for many of us, but it also provides an opportunity to notice some of the small things in life.

“In your garden, or when you are taking a walk, take a closer look at the animals and plants around you and appreciate their beauty, or their weirdness – the tiny dramas unfolding around us every day.

“Unfortunately, many amazing and beautiful species just like these are at serious risk of extinction.

“Nature and green spaces are really important for our well-being, and they are also home for so much wildlife. So if you feel inspired and want to give nature a hand, there are some great online wildlife gardening resources, such as at Buglife, Butterfly Conservation, the Freshwater Habitats Trust, the RSPB and Wildlife Trusts Wales.”

Stay alert for nature – helping wildlife out of the lockdown

Lapwing nest - credit Andrew Gouldstone
Lapwing nest – © Andrew Gouldstone

Millions of people have found solace in nature during the six weeks since the lockdown started. Now nature needs our help and space if it is to thrive as we head outdoors. The RSPB calls for people to stay alert for wildlife.

For most UK species, breeding season is now in full swing and wildlife is at its most vulnerable point of the year. Our countryside birds, mammals and reptiles will normally avoid busier areas of human activity to ensure their nests and young are safe from accidental harm, steering clear of popular beaches, busy footpaths or dog walking hot spots.

The RSPB’s Director of England, Emma Marsh said “This year, nature hasn’t needed to adapt to human behaviour, as we stayed home, and some of our wildlife has reclaimed the places we’ve temporarily given up. As we head back out, we need to be alert and avoid disturbing nature as it gets on with producing the next generation.”

Being alert is particularly important for threatened species such as little terns and ringed plover which nest on beaches and could abandon nests or chicks if we don’t stay alert at the seaside.

Following five simple steps could make all the difference in helping our wildlife as we ease out of lockdown and get back into the countryside.

  1. Stay Alert – any habitat can be a home for wildlife and many of our most vulnerable species are very good at hiding themselves in plain sight. Beaches are home to threatened ground-nesting birds like little terns and ringed plover, while seals have been choosing to rest at popular spots during the lockdown. Even the grass verges next to paths could be hiding skylark or meadow pipit chicks!
  2. Stick to paths and bridleways – the simplest way to give nature space is to keep to the spaces we usually use most, so please do stay on the amazing network of public footpaths and bridleways across England.
  3. Keep dogs on leads in the open countryside – They might be man’s best friend but for vulnerable chicks, a dog bounding through a nest can pose a real threat. Keeping your dog on a lead in the open countryside will help protect both wildlife and livestock. Heathlands are home to ground-nesting rare nightjar and woodlark, which can be easily disturbed by dogs off leads.
  4. Back away if you disturb a breeding species. Short, sharp alarm calls, birds with full beaks or coming unusually near to you usually mean you are too close to young, which can often be very well hidden even if they are almost underfoot! If you see any of this behaviour, you should back up the way you came to avoid any risk of disturbing or injuring young, being careful to watch where you tread.
  5. Report bad behaviour – If you notice anything suspicious going on in your local countryside, such as evidence of wildlife crime, fly-tipping or uncontrolled fires, then please do report this to your local wildlife crime officer using the police 101 number.

Nature is still in crisis with more than 40 million birds having vanished from UK skies in just 50 years, 56% of species in the UK are in decline, and one in ten of our wildlife are critically endangered. The RSPB is looking carefully at how and when we can start to re-open our network of nature reserves safely for both people and wildlife.

For now, our reserves remain closed, until they are ready to welcome back visitors.  Please visit www.rspb.org.uk for the latest information on the reserves nearest you

Chance of a rosy future with record year for roseate terns

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Roseate tern © Chris Gomersall (rspb-images.com)
  • 2019 saw a record-breaking 122 pairs of roseate terns, Europe’s rarest breeding seabird, on Coquet Island.
  • Three webcams now installed on Coquet Island provide a window into the life of roseate terns and puffins.

In 2019 there was a record-breaking 122 breeding pairs of roseate terns, Europe’s rarest breeding seabird, on Coquet Island. The previous record was 118 pairs in 2018.

Roseate terns almost went in extinct back in the 19th century because of the demand for their feathers in ladies’ hats. In 1989 there were still only 467 pairs across the whole of the UK, and Coquet Island has become one of the key sites for helping populations to recover.

Since taking over management of the Island in 1970, the RSPB has used a wide range of methods to bolster roseate tern numbers: installing nest boxes, trialling new techniques such as gull-scarers and ‘aerolasers’ to deter other birds, and building up lost habitat, to name a few.

Paul Morrison, RSPB Northumberland Coast Site Manager, said: “When I first started working on Coquet Island 35 years ago, I could walk over most of the Island without seeing a roseate tern. Now it’s a joy to hear their noisy chatter every time I step out of the lighthouse!

“There’s always a lot more work to do, and roseate terns still face a long uphill battle – but every year I feel more and more optimistic that with the help of our incredible volunteers and members, roseate terns will one day become a common sight around the UK coastline. In the meantime, please do check out the live webcams to see roseate terns strut their stuff on their ‘terrace’ or settle into a nest box – or look out for our puffin ‘runway’!”

Please visit www.rspb.org.uk/coquetisland to see the web cameras. The web cameras, and much of the roseate tern conservation work, has been made possible through the EU funded Roseate Tern LIFE Recovery Project. The LIFE Project (www.roseatetern.org) is a partnership between the RSPB, BirdWatch Ireland and North Wales Wildlife Trust focused on protecting the remaining three colonies in the British Isles and restoring five historical sites for future recolonization.

The RSPB is also asking for people to submit their own archived images of puffins as part of their citizen science project, Puffarazzi – please visit http://www.rspb.org.uk/projectpuffinUK to see how your photos could help protect these iconic clowns of the sea.

Bring the outdoors to your living room with RSPB Zoom backgrounds!

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One of the free Zoom backgrounds © Ben Hall (rspb-images.com)

The RSPB has released 15 free images of its nature reserves for people to use as Zoom backgrounds! Covering everything from lighthouses to lakes across all four countries, there’s something for everyone.

Once downloaded, you can share a screengrab with the hashtag #NaturePhotoBomb to celebrate nature and the outdoors – even if you have to stay at home.

Nic Scothern, RSPB’s Deputy Director – Engagement, said: “Over the last few weeks many of us have had limited or no access to the outdoors, making the outdoors more precious to us than ever. By sharing these beautiful images, we hope to give people a way to make nature part of their virtual social life and recreate some of that sense of peace that comes from a natural setting.

“Are you settling in for a team meeting? Try out an awe-inspiring snow-capped Ben Griam! Or if you’re about to sit down for a virtual tea with your parents, why not bask in the peaceful glow of mist rising off the reedbed at Minsmere? Let us know what you come up with using the hashtag #NaturePhotoBomb, and we look forward to welcoming you to the Reserves in person once they reopen.”

This weekend, wake up to the symphony of the Dawn Chorus!

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Ray Kennedy (rspb-images.com)
  • Sunday 3rd May is International Dawn Chorus Day – a day to celebrate the early morning swell of birdsong!
  • In this unprecedented time when many of us have limited access to the outdoors, you only need to open your window to enjoy this natural phenomenon.
  • 40 million birds have disappeared from the UK since 1970, but there are many ways you can help, from providing some water to putting up a bird feeder.

This Sunday, 3rd May is International Dawn Chorus Day! While early morning bird song continues through to June, this day is a wonderful reminder to celebrate the daily treat of a birdsong choir. Starting about an hour before sunrise (around 4:30am) birds take advantage of the still, quiet air to trumpet, squeak and caw to attract a mate or warn off rivals from their territory. Don’t worry if that’s a bit early for you, though – they often continue singing until about 7am so you can catch their final encore.

Many of us have limited or no access to the outdoors right now, so it’s the perfect time to throw open your windows and let the birdsong in. Even if you don’t have a garden, you will still be able to enjoy the majesty of this natural alarm clock, especially with the current reduction in noise pollution. You may even be able to hear spring migrants who have flown across continents to get to the UK – swifts and swallows often travel all the way from Africa!

These are some of the birds you may be able to hear as part of your local dawn chorus:

  1. Blackcap – a warbling verse
  2. Dunnock – fast and squeaky bursts
  3. Robin – short, laid-back verses with a ‘liquid’ quality
  4. Song thrush – rich and confident calls
  5. Willow warbler – a soft, gentle whistle
  6. Wren – packed, bold and loud
  7. Chiffchaff – helpfully sounds like ‘chiff chaff’
  8. Skylark – a pleasant burble sometimes minutes long
  9. Great tit – a two-note ‘tee-cher tee-cher’ call
  10. Woodpigeon – a wonderfully recognisable ‘coo’ call
  11. Cuckoo – the males’ recognisable ‘cuck-oo’
  12. Nightingale – high, low and rich notes

Sadly, bird populations in the UK are declining, and many of the birds who lend their song to the Dawn Chorus are struggling. For example, cuckoos have declined by 65% since the 1980s, while in the last 60 years the sweet song of the nightingale has seen a 90% reduction.

The good news is that there are lots of things you can do to help – there’s a whole list on the RSPB website, including putting out suitable food scraps, hanging bird boxes or even making a bird bath from an upturned bin lid!

Beccy Speight, CEO of the RSPB, says: “Waking up to the glory of the dawn chorus is one of the most uplifting parts of spring, particularly at this uncertain time. The alarm clock choir of robins, wrens, blackbirds, song thrushes and our other brilliant birds is utterly inspirational and a reminder of how nature can lift our spirits. So many people are taking solace from it.

“But while the impact of the current lockdown means that many of us are hearing birdsong more loudly than ever before, we must remember that 40 million birds have been lost from UK skies in just 50 years – and we all have a part to play in saving this wonder for future generations. Let’s look after our birds as much as they are helping us.”

There are a whole range of ways you can help, so please head to the RSPB website (www.rspb.org.uk) for some inspiration. Or join in our celebration of the Dawn Chorus on social media, using the hashtag #DawnChorusDay.

Twitter – @Natures_Voice | Facebook – @RSPBLoveNature | Instagram – @rspb_love_nature

To find out more, please visit www.rspb.org.uk/dawnchorus

UK Crane population reaches its highest level for over 400 years

We are all in need of some good news so today’s press release from the RSPB is very welcomed.

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Common Crane [Grus grus] confirmed breeding of at least one pair at Lakenheath Fen RSPB reserve. Suffolk, England. 17th May 2007. Possibly for the first time in 400 years!
© Andy Hay (rspb-images.com)
  • Latest common crane survey reveals a record-breaking 56 pairs of cranes in 2019, bringing the total population to an estimated 200 birds.
  • Cranes became extinct in the UK around four hundred years ago but following the natural recolonisation of a few birds and extensive conservation work, including a reintroduction programme, these graceful birds are making a return.
  • Cranes are the tallest bird in the UK, standing at 4ft. They are fabled for their dances; complex displays with bows, pirouettes and bobs, which take place every year between the male and female.

The crane was lost from the UK for nearly 400 years, but thanks to conservation efforts their population numbers have once again hit record levels.

These birds, the tallest in the UK at 4ft, used to be quite common. They were even frequent fixtures at medieval feasts – Henry II’s chefs cooked up 115 of them at his Christmas feast in 1251, but a combination of hunting and wetland decline led to their extinction in the 1600s.

In 1979, a small number of wild cranes returned to Norfolk and conservation groups have been working together to encourage more and more of these birds.  They have now spread to other areas of the UK, benefitting from improved habitat such as at the RSPB’s Lakenheath and Nene Washes reserves as well as Natural England’s Humberhead Peatlands. Cranes recolonised Scotland in 2012 and Wales in 2016.

In 2010, the Great Crane Project – a partnership between the RSPB, WWT and the Pensthorpe Conservation Trust, and funded by Viridor Credits Environmental Company – joined the movement. The project creates and improves existing habitat, as well as hand-rearing young birds for release on the Somerset Levels and Moors.

All the conservation effort has yielded impressive results, with 56 pairs across the UK last year.  Of these, up to 47 pairs attempted to breed and they raised 26 chicks. The total population is now believed to be over 200 birds – a new record.

Damon Bridge, Chair of the UK Crane Working Group said: “The increase of cranes over the last few years shows just how resilient nature can be when given the chance. With the support of our wonderful partners, we’ve been able to recreate more and more of the cranes’ natural habitat, giving them a place to recuperate after the winter and raise their chicks. They are not yet out of the woods, but their continued population climb year after year is a very positive sign.”

Andrew Stanbury, RSPB Conservation Scientist said: “Thanks to the dedication of individuals, the UK Crane Working Group and conservation organisations, we are delighted to see crane numbers continuing to recover. Nature reserves have played a vital role. At least 85% of the breeding population are found on protected sites, with a third on RSPB reserves alone”.

Dr Geoff Hilton, WWT’s Head of Conservation Evidence said: “The reintroduction of lost species must be supported with good habitat management and protection for the recovery to work. The success of the crane project to date demonstrates what can be achieved in a short space of time by giving nature a helping hand. We also must thank dedicated land managers and farmers in the area for supporting crane conservation.”

Chrissie Kelley, Pensthorpe Conservation Trust’s Head of Species Management said: “’As partners in the GCP, and with a long association working with Eurasian Cranes, we are thrilled to see wild cranes doing so well. Seeing these birds in flight is breath-taking and we have regular sightings of them over our reserve in Norfolk. We hope soon to spot one of the released birds amongst those that visit Pensthorpe.”

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Common or Eurasian crane chick [Grus grus] three-week-old captive-reared chick, WWT, Slimbridge, Gloucestershire, July
© Nick Upton (rspb-images.com)

RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch results show milder winter helps small garden birds

 

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House sparrow, Passer domesticus, male, perched on stone in garden. Co. Durham. October. ©Ray Kennedy (rspb-images.com)
  • House sparrow remains at the top of the Big Garden Birdwatch rankings with almost 1.3 million sightings throughout the weekend.
  • Almost half a million people across the UK spent an hour watching the birds that visit their garden or outdoor space as part of the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch, counting nearly 8 million birds in total.
  • For many people, garden birds remain an important link to nature and the RSPB will be helping people to share their wildlife encounters and provide ideas for things you can do for wildlife close to home.

The latest results from the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch have revealed smaller birds such as long-tailed tits, wrens and coal tits were seen in greater numbers in gardens across the country than in 2019 thanks to the milder winter.

Now in its 41st year, the Big Garden Birdwatch is a chance for people of all ages to count the number of birds that visit their garden helping the RSPB build up a picture of how they are doing. This year, almost half a million people across the country took part counting nearly 8 million birds.

The event held over the last weekend in January revealed the house sparrow held on to its number one spot whilst there was an increase in garden sightings of long-tailed tits, wrens, and coal tits, three of the smallest species to visit our gardens. More gardens reported seeing long-tailed tits up by 14%, wrens up by 13% and coal tits up by 10% in 2020 compared to 2019. The milder weather we experienced at the start of the year appears to have helped populations of these species as small birds are more susceptible to spells of cold weather.

Over its four decades, Big Garden Birdwatch has highlighted the winners and losers in the garden bird world. It was first to alert the RSPB to the decline in song thrush numbers. This species was a firm fixture in the top 10 in 1979. By 2009, its numbers were less than half those recorded in 1979, it came in at 20th in the rankings this year, seen in just 9% of gardens.

Daniel Hayhow, RSPB Conservation Scientist, said: “Small birds suffer during long, cold winters but the warmer January weather this year appears to have given species such as the wren and long-tailed tit a boost. Over the survey’s lifetime, we’ve seen the increasing good fortunes of birds such as the coal tit and goldfinch and the alarming declines of the house sparrow and starling. But there appears to be good news for one of these birds. While the overall decline in house sparrow numbers, reported by participants, since the Big Garden Birdwatch began is 53% (1979 – 2020), in the most recent decade (2010-2020) numbers appear to have increased by 10%. Giving us hope that at least a partial recovery may be happening.”

The house sparrow remained at the top of the Big Garden Birdwatch rankings at the most commonly seen garden birds with more than 1.3 million recorded sightings throughout the weekend. Starling held down the second spot once more, with the blue tit completing the top three.

Throughout the first half of the spring term the nation’s school children took part in the RSPB’s Big Schools Birdwatch. The UK-wide survey of birds in school grounds saw close to 70,000 school children and their teachers spend an hour in nature counting the birds. Blackbird was the most numerous species seen with an average of 5 per school; and was seen in 85% of all schools that took part.

Beccy Speight, the RSPB’s Chief Executive, said: “We know that for many people, garden birds provide an important connection to the wider world and bring enormous joy. These are difficult and unsettling times for all of us, but we hope that nature can provide a welcome respite in whichever form and wherever you may encounter it.

“Despite everything that’s going on in the world, nature is still doing its thing. Birds are singing and blossom is bursting. Watching wildlife, whether from a window or a balcony or even online, can offer many of us hope, joy and a welcome distraction, and so we are keen to help you carry on connecting with the natural world.

“Over the coming days and weeks, we will be helping people to share their wildlife encounters and provide ideas for things you can do for wildlife close to home. You can also join the RSPB for #BreakfastBirdwatch from your home, weekdays, 8:00-9:00am. Follow the RSPB on Twitter and Facebook

For a full round-up of all the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch results and to see which birds were visiting gardens where you live, visit www.rspb.org.uk/birdwatch

Hedge your bets for nature this year

Wren Troglodytes troglodytes, adult male singing on branch, Hertfordshire, May
Wren Troglodytes troglodytes, adult male singing on a branch, Hertfordshire, May
 © Ben Andrew (rspb-images.com)

With our wildlife under threat, the RSPB is asking gardeners to help wildlife this year by putting down the shears until August as hedgerows in the UK become vital homes for some of our most loved animals.

The charity is appealing to stop hedge cutting and be extra careful when tending to gardens from now on. Many people mistakenly believe birds only nest between April and September; but the wildlife charity is anxious to warn gardeners that some species have already started.

Singing, displaying and nest building among birds like blackbirds, magpies, wrens and robins has started with a vengeance, proving that the breeding season will soon be in full swing. Pruning hedges or shrubs and tidying plants could have a serious effect on their breeding success this spring if nests are dislodged or damaged. As birds are naturally secretive and tend to hide their nests away for safety, they can be difficult to spot.

The RSPB is asking people to stop cutting and pruning and save everything but essential tidying until later in the year. Where work is vital, the charity is urging people to keep their eyes peeled and tread carefully. If a nest is discovered, the advice is to try and restore any covering preferably with cuttings from the same hedge or those nearby and give it a wide berth until young birds have flown the nest.

Charlotte Ambrose, RSPB Wildlife Adviser, says: “It really is time to put the shears down as the breeding season is underway. We know that many people will be keen to get out and prepare their gardens for the summer months as daylight lasts longer and it gets a little milder. But this is the most vulnerable time for birds who have either eyed up the perfect spot, started making a nest or already raising a family.

“If you really feel you must chop and prune, please be aware that it is illegal to intentionally take, damage or destroy an active nest. You should thoroughly check for nests before you start cutting and if you find any during you need to stop.  This year is a critical year for nature and with global leaders deciding the fate of our planet later in 2020, it’s crucial we all play our part in giving nature a home.”

More information on how you can help give nature a home, can be found at www.rspb.org.uk/homes

NEW RESEARCH SHOWS OVERALL BENEFITS FOR BIRDS FROM RESTORING NATIVE WOODLAND BUT SOME MOORLAND SPECIES MAY LOSE OUT

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Willow warbler Phylloscopus trochilus, perched in a bare larch tree, Co Durham, April. John Bridges (rspb-images.com) 

RSPB research in Scotland suggests that native woodland plantations could have overall benefits for some breeding birds – but care should be taken not to squeeze out important species of open ground.

The study, published in the journal Biological Conservation, looked at the breeding bird communities in native woodland plantations and nearby open moorland in Highland Perthshire.

Overall, more bird species were present in native woodland plantations relative to moorland and the number of species increased with the age, height and cover of the woodland present.

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Meadow pipit Anthus pratensis, adult perched on bracken, Isle of Tiree. Tom Marshall (rspb-images.com)

Many songbird species were also more common in woodland than on moorland, but the Meadow Pipit, which favours open moorland, is expected to lose out through woodland creation. Meadow Pipits are of conservation concern due to population declines and are listed as globally Near-Threatened by the IUCN. The UK supports globally important breeding populations of the Meadow Pipit and some other open-ground species including the Eurasian Curlew, so impacts from woodland creation on these species should be minimised.

Researchers concluded “Native reforestation of open ground offers net gains in bird species richness but could disbenefit open-ground birds including those of conservation concern. Where retention of open-ground species is desired, landscape-scale reforestation should consider both woodland and open-ground wildlife.” This new research therefore emphasizes that serious thought must be given to how to minimise impacts on open-ground biodiversity of high conservation importance.

The Scottish Government has set ambitious targets to create 12,000 to 15,000 hectares of new woodland annually until 2032 and wishes to increase Scotland’s woodland cover to 21% of land area. This has the potential to deliver on climate change and biodiversity targets but a large proportion of this newly created woodland is comprised of non-native tree species.

RSPB Scotland’s Head of Land Use Policy Vicki Swales said “Increasing the area of woodlands has a key part to play in helping Scotland’s wildlife as well as tackling climate change. Native woodlands can be a fantastic home for birds and many plants, insects and mammals. But this research shows that careful attention will have to be paid to what trees are planted and where; we need the right trees in the right places. For some of our most important birds maintaining open moorland and not planting trees there remains key.”

Dr David Douglas, lead author of the research said: “Creating native woodland on moorland should increase the overall number of bird species using these areas, but birds that are adapted to open ground are likely to lose out. We only studied native woodland but we know that in Scotland, a large amount of new woodland currently being created is commercial plantation forestry dominated by non-native species. We urgently need to understand where to place new woodland – whether native or non-native tree species – to minimise the impacts on important open ground biodiversity.”

Are your garden birds here for a season’s greeting?

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Redwing Turdus iliacus, adult perched on hawthorn tree in front of builders merchant ready to feast on the berries, Bedfordshire, January
  • Freezing conditions force hungry winter migrant birds, fieldfares and redwings, into gardens.
  • These birds are often mistaken for the familiar song thrush and will have spent the last few months in the countryside.
  • The RSPB is asking people to help these birds get through the winter by providing them with food such as apples and pears.

Across the country large numbers of winter thrushes, fieldfares and redwings are turning up on lawns as the temperature plummets. These birds are often mistaken for the song thrush, which can be found in gardens all year round, as they look very similar. Sadly the more familiar song thrush, together with winter visitors fieldfares and redwings are all on the conservation status red list and are globally under threat as numbers have declined dramatically.

Redwings are small thrushes with brown backs, streaked breasts and patches of red under their wings. Their larger cousins, fieldfares, have blue grey hoods, grey brown backs, streaked breasts and a pale grey rump. These birds usually spend the winter roaming the countryside in search of berries and other fruit. Redwings and fieldfares will remain in the UK until around the end of March when they return to Iceland and Scandinavia to nest.

The popular song thrush, is a songbird that can be spotted in our gardens throughout the year and has a brown back and spotted breast. It has a beautiful and loud song and likes to eat snails which it breaks into by smashing them against a stone with a flick of the head. When the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch began in 1979, the song thrush was the tenth most seen bird in gardens across the country. But from the latest citizen survey results, numbers reveal they have declined by 77% over the last 40 years.

RSPB Wildlife Advisor Charlotte Ambrose says: “At this point in winter much of the natural food supply will have been used up. So with the weather now turning dramatically for much of the UK, these hungry birds have moved into gardens for food, water and shelter.

“You can help these beautiful visitors get through this cold snap by putting out fruit like apples and pears and planting winter berry plants such as holly. Remember they’ll need water too, so keep your bird bath topped up and ice free.”

Up to half a million people are expected to watch and count their garden birds for this year’s RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch over the last weekend in January 2020. To find out more, visit www.rspb.org.uk/birdwatch