We learn more about how you can get involved in 2021’s nationwide RSPB birdwatch…

Hundreds of thousands of people across the UK will celebrate their love of nature and unite to watch and count the nation’s garden birds over the last weekend in January for the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch.

This year, we’ve seen how important the natural world is to our wellbeing. There has been a surge in interest in the nature on our doorsteps and many people have come to rely on garden birds to bring joy and comfort in these unsettling times.

Next year’s event takes place on 29, 30 and 31 January 2021. The public is asked to spend just one hour watching and recording the birds in their garden, balcony or local park, then send their results to the RSPB. Close to half-a-million people join in the Birdwatch every year.

Just one hour every year, for the last four decades, has made the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch the largest garden wildlife citizen science project. Now in its 42nd year, 144 million birds have been counted giving the RSPB an astonishing amount of insight into how our wildlife is faring.

Beccy Speight, the RSPB’s chief executive, said: ‘We know that for many people, garden birds provide an important connection to the wider world and bring enormous joy. Lockdown brought few benefits, but the last year has either started or reignited a love of nature for many people. There has been a broad and much-needed realisation that nature is an important and necessary part of ourlives especially for our mental health and wellbeing. But nature needs us too.

‘By taking part in the Birdwatch, you are helping to build an annual snapshot of how our birdlife is doing across the UK. It is only by us understanding how our wildlife is faring that we can protect it. We know that nature is in crisis but together, we can take action to solve the problems facing nature.’

For four decades, Big Garden Birdwatch has highlighted the winners and losers in the garden bird world. The house sparrow remained at the top of the Big Garden Birdwatch rankings as the most commonly seen garden bird with nearly 1.3 million sighted in 2020. Starling held down the second spot once more, with the blue tit completing the top three.

While house sparrows and starlings may be the UK’s most commonly sighted birds, a closer look at Big Garden Birdwatch data shows that numbers have in fact dropped dramatically since the Birdwatch began in 1979. House sparrows are down 53 per cent while starlings are down 80 per cent. It’s a pattern echoed by two more garden favourites, with blackbirds and robins down 46 per cent and 32 per cent respectively.

To take part in the Big Garden Birdwatch 2021, watch the birds in your garden or local park for one hour at some point over the three days.

Only count the birds that land, not those flying over. Tell us the highest number of each bird species you see at any one time – not the total you see in the hour.

The parallel event, RSPB Big Schools’ Birdwatch, takes place during the first half of spring term: 6 January to 21 February 2021.

This year, it celebrates its 20th anniversary of connecting children with nature in their school grounds. Since its launch, over a million school children and teachers have taken part. Further information can be found at www.rspb.org.uk/schoolswatch

For your free Big Garden Birdwatch guide, which includes a bird identification chart, top tips for your birdwatch, RSPB shop voucher, plus advice on how to help you attract wildlife to your garden, text BIRD to 70030 or visit www.rspb.org.uk/birdwatch.

Registration for Big Garden Birdwatch 2021 opens on 9 December 2020.