Join the RSPB survey for Hertfordshire
How will the coldest December on record affect results of the world's biggest wildlife survey?
At least half a million people are expected to be watching more garden birds than ever before at the weekend, (29-30 January), for the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch.
The RSPB is keen to know how the coldest December since records began has affected garden bird numbers.
The worst winter weather is usually in January and February, and the wildlife charity believes that the early start to winter, and the extremely low temperatures will mean that gardens have already been occupied by higher numbers of birds than normal.
The RSPB also expects some unusual sightings in the survey, with less common birds already having had 3-4 weeks to find food left out by concerned householders.
Dr Mark Avery, RSPB Conservation Director, says, 'Regardless of where they live, or the size of their outside space, people in the UK have been united this winter in their wish to try and help garden birds.
'As a result, we expect more birds than ever to be recorded in Big Garden Birdwatch 2011, and maybe more unusual species than other years.
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'The really cold weather began quite early in December, and this would have when been natural food sources became scarce. Birds that wouldn’t usually be found in gardens had to adapt their behaviour and look closer to home in our gardens.
'By now, these birds could have been making the most of our hospitality for over a month, meaning even more unusual sightings this weekend.'
Participants are also expected to take part from a wider variety of gardens than ever before too.
People have already confirmed that they will be doing Big Garden Birdwatch from places like boats, old people’s homes, caravans, allotments, nurseries and prisons, helping garden birds, no matter where they live or the size of their garden.
There has been huge concern about birds during the extended periods of snowy weather, and the RSPB’s switchboards and website have been constantly busy with people looking for advice on feeding garden birds and help identifying unusual visitors. The charity has also sold a record amount of birdseed this winter.
The charity hopes that as well as providing useful data to study trends and spot any worrying declines, the survey will act as a reminder that garden birds still need our help for a few weeks yet. The RSPB is advising people to continue putting out supplementary food and water, to attract all kinds of species.
Aggie Rothon, RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch Project Manager for the east, says, 'The Big Garden Birdwatch is the biggest garden bird survey in the world and as well as being of scientific importance, it’s a whole lot of fun to take part in too!
'Around the UK, people will be settling down in the warm, with a cup of tea and a pen, and noting what birds visit their garden for one hour. It really is that simple. And don’t worry if you’re not sure you know your song thrush from your starling – we provide descriptions and pictures on the form and on our website to help you figure it out.
'As well as reaping the rewards of things you’ve been doing in your garden since the last survey, like feeding and planting, you will be making a valuable contribution to bird conservation – from the warmth of your armchair!'
Visit the RSPB website www.rspb.org.uk/birdwatch for more information and to submit your results online.