THOUSANDS of families from Worcestershire gave an hour of their time over the last weekend in January to do a bit of bird spotting in their gardens and record their feathered visitors.

This year’s Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) Big Garden Birdwatch from January 27 to 29 inspired 7,301 households in the county to take part and contribute to building a picture of the birdlife in our area.

The annual event relies on families and individuals watching the bird activity in a local green space – whether their garden, a park, playing field, common, river or canal side – and recording what they see. They are then asked to submit the result to the RSPB.

The information is then used to build up a picture of how birds are doing in Britain and enable organisations like the RSPB, wildlife trusts and the People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTSE) to support any struggling species.

The exercise also encourages people to spend a short time relaxing and appreciating the natural world and what it has to offer right on our doorstep.

This time, in its 39th year, the Big Garden Birdwatch attracted more than 450,000 people across the country to take part. They counted no less than 6.7 million birds over the weekend.

The top three birds spotted in Worcestershire were the house sparrow, the blue tit and the blackbird. Nationally the latest birdwatch results show a golden year for the goldfinch along with a number of other small birds after a surge in sightings. Long-tailed tits and coal tits were among these.

Recorded sightings of the brightly coloured, sociable goldfinch rose by 11 per cent on 2017 figures and its bright red face was seen in more than two-thirds of gardens. Other small birds that are thought to have benefited from the generally mild January weather include long-tailed tit with sightings up 16 per cent, the coal tit figures were up 15 per cent and the blue tit sightings increased five per cent.

According to the RSPB, it also proved to be a good year for the greenfinch after a five per cent rise in sightings. This is a welcome sign for a species that has undergone a 60 per cent decline in sightings since the first survey in 1979.

The society added: “The influx of these species to our gardens is thought to be linked to the favourable conditions during their successful breeding season in 2017. This, combined with the kind autumn and winter weather in the run up to the Birdwatch, will have contributed to the rise in sightings.”

Daniel Hayhow, RSPB Conservation Scientist, said: “Our garden birds are a part of our everyday life, whether it’s the robin perched on the garden fence or the flock of starlings you see on your way to work.

“To have hundreds of thousands of people spend an hour watching the wildlife in their garden isn’t only great to see, but it also helps us build up a picture of how our garden birds are doing, which is really helpful.

“Last summer was a really good year for many breeding birds with warm weather creating great conditions for many smaller birds to raise their young to adulthood.

“The rise in sightings of goldfinch, long-tailed tit and coal tit, along with chaffinches and greenfinches, goes to show that in the absence of cold weather they can survive the winter months in good numbers. Looking at the results it is likely that across the UK this is what people are seeing in their garden.”

It is likely that the warmer temperatures during the autumn and winter will have made it easier for these birds to find food, like insects, in our gardens, which in previous colder winters would have been harder to come by because of frosts and snow.

The survey also highlighted a dip in the number of recorded sightings of blackbirds, which were down by 18 per cent, robins which dropped by 12 per cent and wrens - down by 11 per cent on last year’s figures.

Dr Hayhow explained: “We all will have noticed that the weather earlier in the winter was slightly warmer than we’re used to, and our garden birds have felt this too.

“It’s usual for there to be more food available in the wider countryside during a mild winter meaning birds are less reliant on the treats we put out on the garden feeders.

“However, unlike the finches and tits, robins and wrens did not have a good breeding season in 2017 and data from other surveys indicate that their numbers may be down overall this year.”

The house sparrow remained at the top of the Big Garden Birdwatch rankings at the most commonly seen garden birds with more than one million recorded sightings throughout the weekend. Starling held down the second spot once more, with the blue tit moving up one spot to round off 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 93,000 school children spend an hour in nature counting the birds. Despite a drop in Big Garden Birdwatch sightings, the blackbird remain top of the Big Schools Birdwatch rankings with one being spotted in 88% of schools – a 22% increase on 2017.

For more information about the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch visit

The top 20 birds seen in this year’s Big Garden Birdwatch in Worcestershire were – house sparrow; blue tit; blackbird; woodpigeon; long-tailed tit; starling; goldfinch; great tit; robin; magpie; chaffinch; dunnock; collared dove; jackdaw; carrion crow; coal tit; greenfinch; feral pigeon; wren and song thrust.

Communications manager for Worcestershire Wildlife Trust Wendy Carter said: “The garden finches have really increased in numbers over the past 20 years as we have started to feed the birds more and give them more attention. It is nice to see them in gardens.

“There are some winners and losers though and the greenfinch and chaffinch have been hit by disease.”

She said householders can help these birds by regularly cleaning feeders so disease doesn’t spread. She stressed: “It is important for people to clean their garden feeders to help the birds stay free of disease.”