People tell us about their sightings as part of RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch, with many species flourishing.


The Big Garden Birdwatch, a citizen survey organised by the RSPB, has returned for its 44th year. The survey took place between 27-29 January 2023 and the deadline for submitting results is on 19 February.

Hundreds of readers got in touch to share their experiences of taking part in this year’s survey. Here, five people tell us about their sightings.

‘We had a greater variety this year’

I carried out the Birdwatch survey with my wife between 08.30 and 09.30 on Saturday 28 January 2023. We saw a greater spotted woodpecker, four long-tailed tits, two robins, two great tits, one dunnock, three blue tits, two blackbirds, one thrush, two starlings and one chaffinch. This was more birds than last year, and a greater variety. They came to our feeders and in our small trees and on the lawn. There were two redwings in next door’s bushes close to our garden.

We only have a small garden with a lot of evergreen bushes. We seem to have more bird activity in the mornings. We are on the edge of the countryside which seems to help with the woodland birds visiting us. We keep feeders up and filled all year round. We very rarely have sparrows, despite having put up a sparrow terrace nesting box. But we have seen a sparrowhawk in the area at times, and found evidence of kills on our lawn. Michael Bedwell, 65, Chelmsford, Essex

‘The robins are so tame’

I live near the seafront in Brighton, and the murmurations of starlings over Brighton pier used to be a wonderful sight. The numbers have been getting lower and lower over the years. During the cold spell, they all disappeared from their roost under the pier. This is my first year completing the survey in my garden, but robins seem to be as frequent as usual; there’s a pair of them that are so tame that I have to make sure I don’t tread on them.

My garden is very bird-friendly, with lots of trees and large hedges. I saw quite a lot of wood pigeons. But in general there’s seems to be a lack of wildlife. I used to see wrens, woodpeckers and so many more. The numbers seem to have decreased over the years; although gulls, wagtails and robins seem much the same. Anne Williams, 68, Brighton

The bitter cold may have affected numbers’

We have a good-sized garden with trees and shrubs, and put out bird feeders to attract birds. My husband and I watched for an hour on Saturday around 11am, possibly a little later than planned, from inside the house. We saw several robins, blackbirds, both collared doves and wood pigeons, one starling, and a couple of coal tits. They came mainly for the feeders up near the house but the collared doves appear to be nesting in a large holly tree on our boundary.

A lot of the activity of the blackbirds was pecking about on the ground under the feeders and the shrubs by the garden fence. Sadly, I think there were fewer birds than last year. Maybe something to do with our long boundary hedge having to be replaced with a fence. We are planting along it now and it should be somewhere for birds again soon. There has been a lot of building work and other human activity in the area, so maybe the birds were scared away. The cold in the last few weeks was also very bitter after a warm start to the year, which may have affected numbers. Maureen Austin, West Norfolk

‘A song thrush was an unusual but welcome sighting’

My back garden backs on to some woods, so all the birds come from there to the feeders. There is never a lack of birds where I live and I feed them every day – I do believe that feeding them is a good thing. They all seem to be healthy. There seem to be more pigeons, though, which makes things difficult for the smaller birds.

We have a lot of finches, robins and a woodpecker. I have been doing the RSPB survey for three years but I couldn’t do it properly this year because every time the little birds would come down to feed, the pigeons scared them off. I have to shoo them away or they eat everything in minutes. This is the first year that I’ve used a bird table, which attracted blackbirds. I have been seeing a song thrush there, too, which is an unusual but welcome sighting. Katie Chapman, 46, Garelochhead, Scotland

‘A total lack of finches’

I have a bird-feeding station down by the river at the bottom of my garden. I spent an hour observing on 28 January, from 14.15 to 15.15. We had 14 blue tits, two great tits, one coal tit, three long-tailed tits, a robin, a wren, a pheasant, a blackbird, a dunnock, a treecreeper, a starling and a chaffinch. With the exception of one hen chaffinch, I noticed a lack of finches, especially siskins, which used to be regulars but have been absent for about 18 months. I’ve also noticed a decline in the number of dippers along this stretch of the Tanat over the same period.

However, I have had two visits each from little and great white egrets – birds I last saw only in central Africa in the 1960s. I can also report a thriving colony of 12-15 house sparrows at the other end of my garden. I have been doing the RSPB survey since just before the millennium. During that time I’ve seen a sand martin colony disappear as the sandbanks of the river eroded, but last year they found a new sandbank and a small colony started up again. Bob Perkins, 80, retired teacher, Penybontfawr, Tanat valley, Wales

‘The numbers were much improved on last year’

We removed our bird feeders a while ago as we had a problem with rats. This week, I reintroduced our nut feeder and added a seed mix to the bird table. We had an almost instant response. The regular robin continued to visit along with two nuthatches various blue tits, great tits and coal tits. Only one or two chaffinches have returned. A woodpecker, two magpies and a family of pigeons are also trying their luck. Sparrows, blackbirds and thrushes also come into the more sheltered part of the garden.

The numbers during this survey are much improved on last year, which was the worst ever watch since I started in 2016 – although chaffinch numbers are down quite considerably. Hawks seem to have increased in number and we now have no swallows in the summer. The jays are still around, and we have random visits from a flock of fieldfares. Ann Skelton, Cornwall

(Article source: The Guardian)

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