Join thousands of people taking part in this year’s RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch and help experts create a picture of how our feathered friends are doing. Jamie Bowman reports...

FOR 40 years, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) has been asking us to count the birds in our gardens and this weekend is your chance to take part in the world’s largest wildlife survey.

There were nearly half a million results submitted as part of last year’s Big Garden Birdwatch and more than 6.76 million birds were spotted in gardens and green spaces across the UK. This year’s event is likely to attract even more people to count even more birds, providing a valuable picture of the national population of garden birds, and enabling the RSPB 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 wood pigeon population has increased by a whopping 800 per cent.

But here in Wales, the situation facing the native bird populations remains worrying.

A new report, State of Birds in Wales 2018, has shown that a third of Wales’ breeding and wintering bird species are declining significantly and pressed the urgent conservation need to protect some of our most iconic species.

The report highlights how breeding birds of upland farmed habitats, such as curlew, golden plover, black grouse, red grouse and ring ouzel have all seen their numbers decline.

Whilst Wales holds over half of the chough population found in the UK and Isle of Man and numbers in Wales are stable overall, there is real concern about declines in numbers breeding inland in north and mid Wales since 2002.

The report also showed how breeding kittiwakes have declined by 35 per cent in Wales since 1986, while the breeding range of black-headed gulls has shrunk by 52 per cent since 1970.

The report highlights how we are in real danger of failing to learn from history. Many species have already disappeared from Wales, such as corn bunting, dotterel and nightingale, due to changes to the environment and climate impacting on their habitats and reproductive strategies.

The report also illustrates how Wales is home to a large proportion of the UK populations of many breeding and wintering species.

Wales hosts more than half of the UK breeding populations of pied flycatcher and redstart, as well as more than quarter of the UK breeding populations of honey buzzard, goshawk, wood warbler, red kite and raven.

Most bird monitoring in Wales is undertaken by volunteers who contribute more than 5,000 hours of their expertise every year in surveys utilised in this report.

Citizen science plays a crucial role in saving Wales’ species from extinction and there are plenty of opportunities for people to get involved, helping with the science, through practical intervention or by showing support for wildlife across Wales.

Neil Lambert, RSPB Cymru head of conservation management, said: “We find it unacceptable that a third of Welsh birds are declining significantly and there has never been a more crucial time to get involved in the fight for nature’s future.

“Public involvement is the all-important ingredient in reversing declines by allowing us to discover more about their plight and how we can help safeguard their future.

“With 90 per cent of Wales farmed, agricultural practices have a huge impact on birds and other wildlife.

“Leaving the European Union provides a unique opportunity to develop new land management policies for Wales that will help farmers restore nature.

“Our communities and future generations stand to be poorer without the curlew’s haunting call or the black grouse’s flamboyant lek and we appreciate all who gave up their precious time in helping create this report.”

Kelvin Jones, British Trust for Ornithology Wales, said: “Wales is a very special place for birds, as illustrated by the important populations it holds, pied flycatcher, redstart and wood warbler are difficult birds to see anywhere else in Britain.

“It is paramount that we don’t underestimate the importance of Wales, and that we continue to collect high-quality data to help ensure that we still have these special birds in the future.

“Thank you to all those who go out and take part in the various surveys, without you the picture would be a lot less clear.”

To take part in the Big Garden Birdwatch 2019, watch the birds in your garden or local park for one hour at some point over the three days between January 26-28. Only count the birds that land, not those flying over. Note the highest number of each bird species you see at any one time - not the total you see in the hour.

Once people record the birds that make a visit, they can quickly submit the results online at