By Meg Montague
“Young people, they’re more likely to live in rented accommodation, student accommodation, more urban settings and houses with smaller gardens, or maybe no garden,” said Molly Martin, a communications officer at the RSPB. “And all of that is really important data for us to collect as well.
“We need to get it from everywhere so we get the full picture. Not just people with huge gardens, with all the time and resources to build wildlife friendly areas.”
The BGBW has taken place every year since 1979, and last year nearly half a million people took part. In the run up to this year’s event, the RSPB have seen a 69 per cent increase in website users compared to the same period last year. This makes them hopeful this will be their most popular BGBW yet.
“I remember last Spring we were getting a lot of questions about whether birds were moving into more urban spaces, or if there were more birds around,” added Molly. “But actually what it is is that people were noticing them more…it was quieter, so people had more time to think about the nature that was around them.”
A survey for the RSPB, carried out by YouGov, ahead of the BGBW suggests that more than half of the 2,071 respondents said the coronavirus pandemic had made them more aware of the nature around them. And two-thirds said watching birds and hearing their song added enjoyment to life, especially in the last 12 months.
Geoff Cooper is a wildlife photographer, based in Troon. He said watching birds and other wildlife in his garden helped him “get through lockdown.”
“Watching wildlife is very relaxing. [It’s] just a nice thing to do,” said Geoff. “Having a connection with the natural world is tremendously important. It’s a great way to decompress, especially in these troubled times.”
Through the BGBW survey, the RSPB are able to track overall trends in bird and wildlife populations across the UK. Results show the numbers of common birds, such as starlings, sparrows and robins, have dropped dramatically since the BGBW’s inception.
“Citizen science is integral in science communication and dissemination, giving the general public an opportunity to get involved in scientific research,” said zoologist Jack Howieson. “It also helps the public to experience their local ecosystems and learn more about local biodiversity.
“With the global pandemic, citizen science provides the opportunity for volunteer sample collection that simultaneously limits travel while giving the volunteer an opportunity to contribute to scientific research.”
The BGBW runs from 29-31 January and you can find out how to take part on the RSPB’s website.