WAXWINGS were among the more unusual migrant birds which visited Midlands gardens this winter.
The Scandinavian natives were among the 8million birds observed by over 9,000 people in the region, during The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds’ annual Big Garden Birdwatch over a weekend in January.
Although waxwings are regular winter visitors to the UK, in some years they are seen in larger numbers, called irruptions, when the population on its breeding grounds gets too big for the food available. This winter was a case in point with around 15 times more recorded in Midlands gardens.
Most commonly spotted was the house sparrow which took the number one spot, followed by the starling and blackbird.
There was also good news for robins, with the average number seen visiting gardens at its highest level since 1986.
Blue tits, great tits, and coal tits did not fare so well with a fall in their numbers – which experts believe could be down to the prolonged wet weather during the 2016 breeding season which may have posed a threat to the survival of younger birds.
Recorded sightings did however increase for the majority of birds since last year’s survey, showing how gardens are becoming a crucial resource for our most common British garden birds.
Claire Thomas, from the RSPB, said: “This year was another incredible year for the Big Garden Birdwatch. Our gardens can become an invaluable resource for birds – throughout the year birds need food, water and a safe place to shelter.
“If we all provide these things in our outdoor spaces it will be a huge help to our garden birds, perhaps even playing a role in reversing some declines.”
The survey also saw over 70,000 schoolchildren spend an hour counting birds, which saw blackbirds remain as the number one playground visitor for the ninth year running followed by starlings and wood pigeons.
The surveys are part of RSPB’s Giving Nature a Home campaign, aimed at tackling the housing threat to UK wildlife. The charity encourages people to provide a place for wildlife in their gardens such as putting up nest boxes, creating a pond or home for hedgehogs.
Visit www.rspb.org.uk/birdwatch for more information about the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch results.