The World’s biggest citizen science wildlife count takes place this weekend. It is a very simple and accessible event which requires each observer to sit for one hour in their garden or a local park. Their observations are then entered to the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch site.
The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds is the prominent bird organisation in Great Britain. Their Big Garden Birdwatch was instigated 37 years ago and is now reputed to be the World’s biggest wildlife survey. This may come as a surprise to those who take part in the Christmas Bird Count in the USA and to me too, but the RSPB claims over half a million respondents counted 8 million birds last year. That’s a lot of people connecting with nature in their immediate environment.
The reason for its success is its simplicity. Very little effort is involved and the birds are likely to be familiar garden species, easily recognised. Just one hour, with a cup of tea and some carrot cake, looking out the window and counting birds. How easy is that? It is marketed as a family activity and limited to one hour to allow for young attention spans. The RSPB concede that it may not be a perfect census method, but encouraging people to become involved can be as beneficial to birds as an accurate count.
The serious number crunching comes once the sightings have been collated and 37 years of historical data has thrown up few interesting details. Greenfinch populations have plummeted as Goldfinch numbers have soared for example. The information is invaluable to conservation bodies which can use it to spot problems and plan solutions.
So if you are in the UK this weekend, 28th to 30th January, visit the website for details and then take an hour out to count the wildlife that is counting on us.