Run by the RSPB the Big Garden Birdwatch has been going since 1979 when they were looking for a simple winter activity that their junior membership could get involved in. As it was likely to be cold and the evenings dark, a weekend activity in the garden was decided upon. So, they asked their members to count the birds in their gardens, all at the same time, so that they could work out what the UK's top 10 most common garden birds were.
Biddy Baxter – then editor of Blue Peter – liked the idea so much that she featured the survey on one of the programmes – thanks to Biddy's coverage, more than 34,000 forms were completed!
And that's how the 'one-off' activity grew into the regular event it is today. Although it wasn't until 2001 that adults were invited to join in the fun, too.
How does Big Garden Birdwatch help?
With over half a million people now regularly taking part, coupled with almost 40 years worth of data, Big Garden Birdwatch allows the RSPB to monitor trends and helps them to understand how birds are doing.
As the format of the survey has stayed the same, the scientific data can be compared year-on-year, making results very valuable to RSPB scientists.
With results from so many gardens, it is possible to create a 'snapshot' of bird numbers across the UK.
While some changes in bird numbers can seem scary – we've lost more than half our house sparrows and some three-quarters of our starlings – it isn't all doom and gloom. Since Birdwatch began blue tit numbers have risen by 20 per cent and the woodpigeon population has increased by a whopping 800 per cent.
The results help the RSPB spot problems, but more importantly, they are also the first step in putting things right. This is why it's so important that we count garden birds.
What about other wildlife?
The threats to our wildlife means that it's not just birds facing tough times... it's our badgers, snakes and other animals too. So to help to get a more complete picture of the state of our wildlife, in 2014 the RSPB started to ask us to tell them about some of the other animals in our gardens.
The more people involved, the more can be learnt, so please encourage your family, friends and neighbours to take part.
When does Big Garden Birdwatch take place?
The Big Garden Birdwatch takes place at the end of January each year (26-28 January 2019). It takes place over three days, so if you're busy over the weekend or perhaps the weather's bad, you have the option of a third day!
Sign-up today, to request a postal pack, or take part online and get free access Birdwatch Extra for exclusive articles, activities and celebrity interviews.
Read more at https://www.rspb.org.uk/get-involved/