BIRD watchers are urgently needed to take part in a national count this weekend to see what impact “helter-skelter” weather has had on garden birds.
Last year’s Big Garden Birdwatch revealed the number of house sparrows in Oxfordshire had fallen by a fifth on the previous year and sightings of blue tits, starlings, chaffinches, goldfinches, great tits and robins in the county were all down.
Now the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) wants to know how flooding in the county has affected bird populations.
RSPB Oxford spokesman Fen Gerry said: “The weather plays an important role in the number of birds in gardens each winter and experts are interested to see if the helter-skelter conditions around the UK so far this year mean birds seem scarce, or they appear in their droves.
“Whatever happens with the weather this weekend, the results will be compared with those from winters in the past, back to the first Big Garden Birdwatch in 1979.
“Any changes alert experts to track the winners and losers in the garden bird world and long-term trends stand out even when year-to-year differences in the weather are taken into account.”
This year, for the first time, people will be able to upload their findings to a live blog on the RSPB website rspb.org.uk Residents are asked to spend an hour at any time this weekend noting the highest number of each bird species they see in their garden or any local, outdoor space.
They then have three weeks to submit their results to the RSPB, either on the website or in the post.
Oxford’s Botanic Garden is taking part in the survey.
It is inviting people to come and count their birds today from 10.30am to 2.30pm, with RSPB volunteers on hand to help identify them.
The garden’s education officer Emma Williams said: “This is important for us because we’re interested in the whole eco system.
“In the garden, birds eat all the slugs and snails which would otherwise eat our plants and they help keep alive the green corridors of the city.”
In another first for this year, participants of the survey have been asked to log how many other animals they spot, including hedgehogs and frogs.
RSPB president Miranda Krestovnikoff said: “The RSPB urgently needs as many people to take part as possible.
“The more people that get involved, the more we’ll be able to understand which of our wildlife is most under threat and take action.
“It’s easy to take part and great fun. We’ll eagerly await some of our regular visitors.”
More than half a million people are expected to take part nationally.
Last year, 10,015 people in Oxfordshire helped count garden birds for the survey. The top 10 bird species, and the average seen during one hour, were:
- 1 House Sparrow 3.2
- 2 Blackbird 2.7
- 3 Blue Tit 2.5
- 4 Woodpigeon 2.1
- 5 Starling 1.8
- 6 Chaffinch 1.7
- 7 Goldfinch 1.6
- 8 Great Tit 1.3
- 9 Long tailed tit 1.3
- 10 Robin 1.2