Watching the birdies!

HOUSEHOLDS across the North-East and North Yorkshire are ‘twitching’ as part of a nationwide annual birdlife survey this weekend, but without leaving the comfort of their own home.

Thousands of families throughout the region are taking part in the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch 2021 to help identify species visiting our gardens and back yards.

Participation is open to everyone, with the simple instruction to spend an hour, either during the day or at after dark, for the night owls, over the weekend observing birds visiting gardens.

People are asked to record the number of birds and the type of species during the given hour and submit the results via the RSPB website to help experts estimate any patterns emerging over how different species are thriving compared to previous years.

The survey is now in its 42nd year and usually attracts thousands of entries from the region, with the potential for greater involvement this year given the Covid-enforced lockdown restrictions.

Sydney Henderson, of the RSPB, said: “It’s been a year when we’ve all been inside more and perhaps looking for a connection with the outside world and the natural world.

“All you need is a window to look out of.

“It’s a reminder that nature is still out there, birds are still flying around.”

The Newcastle-based ornithologist said observing birdlife has been a “big part” of the year for herself and many others, perhaps not previously drawn to the pastime.

Regional figures broadly matched the national picture last year, with the top five sighted species, in descending order, being the housed sparrow, observed by more than two-thirds of participants, followed by the starling, blue tit, blackbird and the woodpigeon, which has now become a distinctive fixture of our gardens.

House sparrows are said to be making a slight recent resurgence having endured a 50-per cent dip in numbers generally over the period the survey has been running.

Among the contenders to break into the top five is the goldfinch and the magpie, which has increased almost four-fold since the first birdwatch survey in 1979.

Results can be filed via the RSPB website, but all taking part are asked to ensure they are submitted by February 19.

The Northern Echo | Durham