Get involved in the BirdWatch Ireland annual garden bird survey

BirdWatch Ireland is calling for the public’s help to keep track of garden birds by participating in the Garden Bird Survey which is now in its 30th year. The survey began on Monday December 3 and runs until the end of February.

Each year hundreds of households across Ireland take part, providing important information on how some of our more common bird species, such as the robin, fare over the challenging winter months. As the Irish countryside changes, gardens are becoming increasingly important havens for many species, and it is vital for us to know how their populations are coping with these changes.

“This is the 30th year of the survey, so we want to make it the biggest year yet," said Brian Burke, who coordinates the survey for BirdWatch Ireland. "We are delighted that Ballymaloe Group is sponsoring the survey this year. We’re particularly keen to boost the number of participants from counties in the west and midlands. We tend to get most participants from areas around cities where there are more people, but we want to the data to be representative of the entire country.”

The Garden Bird Survey is the biggest and longest-running citizen science project in Ireland and really easy to take part in. It is open to everyone with a garden, whether it is smaller than a tennis court or bigger than a football pitch. Participants record the highest number of each species seen each week, and send the information to BirdWatch Ireland when the survey finishes at the end of February.

A basic interest in the birds of your garden is all you need. BirdWatch Ireland is also happy to help if you need it.

“A lot of people will do the survey before work in the mornings, and then keep a closer eye on their gardens at the weekend,” Mr Burke added. “Every year we get great feedback from people participating for the first time, and a lot of households make it a family affair and get the kids involved too.”

Over the last 30 years the survey has documented the rise of the goldfinch in gardens across the country due to better over-wintering survival, and the decline of the greenfinch over the same period due to the trichomonas parasite. Each winter there is a battle at the top between the robin, blackbird, and blue tit, and the number of other species varies a lot from year to year depending on how successful breeding was the previous summer, how cold it gets over the winter, and how many birds arrive from overseas to spend the winter in Ireland.

For full details see birdwatchireland.ie and follow BirdWatch Ireland on Facebook and Twitter.

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