OFFICERS at RSPB Scotland are busy compiling data after last weekend’s Big Garden Birdwatch.
Borderers spent an hour recording the birds that visited their gardens or local parks on Saturday and Sunday, with the charity expecting the cold temperatures to encourage more feathered friends to go to gardens in search of food.
Last year, more than 53,000 Scots – of whom 2,065 were in the Borders – took part in the annual survey.
RSPB Scotland uses the results to form a picture of garden bird populations across the country, highlighting any changes.
Last year, the most common garden visitor in the Borders was the chaffinch, with an average of eight spotted at any one time.
RSPB Scotland’s Louise Smith said: “The Big Garden Birdwatch is a fun and easy way to learn more about the wildlife in your garden, while at the same time contributing to an important piece of citizen science.
“No matter where people take part, whether at home with family, with classmates at school or even with friends, it all counts and will provide us with vital information about some of our more familiar garden birds.
“With the recent snow and ice, many species have been forced to move into gardens to feed. Our advice is to keep providing food and water for garden birds, particularly during the cold. So why not visit our website for more information on helping the wildlife in your garden.”
Since it started in 1979, the annual survey has charted the decline of the starling, once averaging 15 per garden, but now down to two or three in some areas. But others – blue tits, great tits and coal tits in gardens have increased – and goldfinches, which were absent from the Big Garden Birdwatch top 15 in the early years, since 2004 have featured regularly as a top 15 species.
Last year, the top 10 species seen in Borders gardens were, in descending order: chaffinch (8), house sparrow (nearly 6), blue tit (4), blackbird (3), starling (nearly 2.5), great tit (2), coal tit (nearly 2), goldfinch (just over 1.5), wood pigeon (1.5) and the robin, with an average of just under 1.5 spotted in local gardens.
Across Scotland, the house sparrow, pictured top of page, took the top spot last year, with an average of nearly six seen in the nation’s garden. In 2011, the species was the second most seen with an average of just over five spotted in Scotland’s gardens and parks.
Second in 2012 was the chaffinch (4.7) compared to just over six in 2011, when the bird was the most seen across Scotland.
Third last year – and the year before – was the starling, with an average of just over 3.5 seen, down from over 4.5 in 2011. Fourth was the blue tit with just over three seen, staying about the same as in 2011.
Fifth was the blackbird (just under three), sixth was the great tit (over 1.6), seventh was the wood pigeon (nearly 1.5), eighth was the coal tit (just over 1.4) but recording more than 2011 when it was 10th on the national list.
The robin was ninth with an average of just over 1.4 spotted and the goldfinch 10th at nearly 1.3.