A starling on a fat feeder. Picture: John Harding/BTO

Are garden birds in Yorkshire fifty per cent better than those in Lancashire? That is the question posed today by the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO).

And according to the trust, “If the number of people who record their feathered visitors is anything to go by, the answer is ‘yes’!”

Apparently, a remarkable fifty per cent more householders count garden birds for conservation in Yorkshire than in Lancashire, after accounting for differences in human population size. And as hungry birds flock into gardens this winter, the BTO is calling on more people from either side of the border to chart their fortunes. If you can tell a robin from a wren, or a blackbird from a crow, the BTO wants to know!

Gardens are hidden wildlife havens, encompassing a larger area than both National and RSPB Nature Reserves combined. Around half of householders are thought to feed birds in their gardens, together spending hundreds of millions of pounds each year in the process. We are a nation of armchair birdwatchers and the BTO wants those in Yorkshire and Lancashire to get involved with the charity’s year-round Garden BirdWatch survey.

The local area is a fantastic place to watch birds with scarce visitors, such as the glamorous waxwing, spotted in the York area over recent weeks. However, the BTO wants to find out more about the common birds living in and visiting local gardens.

Much-loved birds, such as house sparrow, starling and song thrush, are in decline, while others, including goldfinch and woodpigeon, are booming. In order to get a clearer picture of how garden bird communities are changing, the BTO needs more local people to tell them what they see.

Tim Harrison, of the BTO Garden BirdWatch Team, says, “This winter is set to be particularly spectacular for garden bird enthusiasts. Colourful birds such as great spotted woodpecker, siskin and jay are already pouring into gardens amidst reports of scant seed and nut crops in the countryside.”

BTO Garden BirdWatch is the world’s largest year-round survey of garden birds, having run every week since 1995. Anyone who enjoys watching garden birds is welcome to get involved – the survey is simple and there’s no better excuse for staring out of the window!

Dr Harrison adds, “Watching garden birds is not only great fun, it’s also highly therapeutic. Simply having access to a garden can reduce levels of stress and anxiety, whilst a ‘green view’ has been shown to sharpen mental faculties.”

“If you spend at least a few minutes during most weeks watching birds in your garden, then you are already doing more than enough to take part in BTO Garden BirdWatch. Get in touch with us for a free information pack, which includes a copy of our quarterly magazine about garden birds.”

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