BirdWatch Ireland’s nationwide garden survey begins today

Covid-19 lockdown saw 71 per cent increase in annual garden bird survey participants

For 33 consecutive years, the conservation charity BirdWatch Ireland has run a survey where volunteers record the birds they spot in their gardens.

 

BirdWatch Ireland’s annual nationwide garden survey, running for more than three decades, begins on Monday, following record numbers taking part last winter while the country was subject to strict Covid-19 lockdown restrictions.

Each year the conservation charity runs a survey where volunteers record the various birds they spot in their gardens, once a week from November 29th until the end of February.

Last year the garden survey saw a 71 per cent increase in participants, up from 1,544 households taking part in 2019 to 2,648 households.

The survey has been running for 33 consecutive years, which BirdWatch Ireland says makes it the longest running wildlife survey of its kind in the country.

Robins were the most common bird spotted in last year’s survey, recorded in just shy of all gardens taking part. This was followed by the blackbird, spotted in 99 per cent of gardens, and the blue tit, seen in 97 per cent of gardens.

BirdWatch Ireland said sightings of chaffinches dropped to the lowest level in 14 years, down two places to the sixth most commonly spotted bird. The wren fell two places in the table of sightings down to the 11th most common. The charity said sightings of other birds such as the great tit and starlings increased.

BirdWatch Ireland has several thousand members, with 30 local branches run by volunteers. It runs a number of nature reserves and employs about 30 staff.

Brian Burke, who co-ordinates the annual garden survey, said Covid-19 restrictions last winter led to a huge increase in the numbers taking part.

“Over 2,500 households across the country took part last winter, which was an increase of over a thousand from the year before,” he said.

The organisation had received letters and emails from people who said watching out for birds in their gardens became a “welcome distraction amidst the chaos of the pandemic”, as well as a source of enjoyment for children, he said.

Mr Burke said 77 people had taken part in the BirdWatch Ireland survey for more than 20 years.

The charity noted that several common garden birds, such as the starling, house sparrow and goldcrest had been placed on a conservation “amber warning”, signifying a medium-level of concern for the species. This move followed recent rapid declines in the populations either in Ireland, or across Europe.

Yellowhammers and redwings, which often visit Ireland from Iceland, were now featured among birds on a “red-list” of conservation concern.