RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch 40th anniversary sees house sparrow hold top spot for East Yorkshire and the Humber

The latest results from the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch have revealed a mixed picture for East Yorkshire and Humberside garden birdlife with half of the top 20 species returning fewer sightings in gardens across these counties than in 2018.

By Sue Wilkinson
Friday, 5th April 2019, 9:07 am
Updated Friday, 5th April 2019, 9:14 am
House sparrow
House sparrow

Now in its 40th year, the Big Garden Birdwatch is a chance for people of all ages to count the number of birds that visit their garden helping the RSPB build up a picture of how they are doing.

The event held over the last weekend in January revealed the house sparrow kept its number one spot in East Yorkshire and the Humber.

READ about the woman who collects RSPB badges - she has more than 7,500 charity pins - hereUK house sparrow numbers, reported by participants since the Big Garden Birdwatch began in 1979, have fallen by over half, but in recent years, national numbers have slowly started to rise again, giving conservationists hope that at least a partial recovery may be happening.

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This year in East Yorkshire and Humberside, there was a decrease in garden sightings of wrens and long-tailed tits, two of the smallest species to visit our gardens, after being counted in particularly large numbers in 2018.

Populations of both species may have been affected by last year’s ‘Beast from the East’ as small birds are more susceptible to spells of cold weather. But it’s too early to say if this is a one year blip or the beginning of a trend.

Over its four decades, Big Garden Birdwatch has highlighted the winners and losers in the garden bird world. It was first to alert the RSPB to the decline in song thrush numbers. This species was a firm fixture in the top 10 in 1979. By 2009, its numbers were less than half those recorded in 1979, it came in at 22nd in the East Yorkshire rankings and 21stin Humberside this year.

IN PICTURES: Brilliant badge collection hereThroughout the first half of the spring term the nation’s school children also took part in the RSPB’s Big Schools Birdwatch. The UK-wide survey of birds in school grounds saw close to 60,000 school children, including over 980 in East Yorkshire and over 140 in Humberside, spend an hour in nature counting the birds.

Nationally blackbird was in the number one spot, but bucking the national trend, starling was the most numerous species seen in East Yorkshire schools, with an average of 13 per school; and was spotted in almost three-quarters of all schools that took part in the county. The Humber also bucked the national trend with woodpigeon taking gold position. An average of over six were seen per school and they were recorded in two-thirds of schools that took part in the county.

Annabel Rushton, from the RSPB in Northern England said: “It’s incredible to see that so many people across East Yorkshire and the Humber show a real passion and concern for the wildlife in their gardens and green spaces. People are becoming more and more aware of the challenges and threats that our UK wildlife is currently facing. Citizen science surveys, such as our Big Garden Birdwatch, really help empower people of all ages and backgrounds to play an active part in conservation, and to speak out for the wildlife they love and want to protect.”

To highlight the crisis that nature is facing and the loss of over 40 million wild birds from the UK in just half a century, the RSPB is releasing a specially-created track of birdsong titled ‘Let Nature Sing’.

The single contains some of the most recognisable birdsong that we used to enjoy, but that are on their way to disappearing forever. A compilation of beautiful sound recordings of birds with powerful conservation stories including the cuckoo, curlew, nightingale and turtle dove.

The charity is calling on the public to download, stream and share the single (available to pre-order from 5 April) and help get birdsong into the charts for the first time, spreading the word that people across the UK are passionate about nature’s recovery.

Martin Harper the RSPB’s director of conservation said: “Birds are such iconic parts of human culture but many of us no longer have the time or opportunity to enjoy them.

The time we spend in nature, just watching and listening, can have huge benefits to our wellbeing, especially in these stressful times. The RSPB wants to help more people reconnect with their wilder sides and is bringing birdsong back into people’s busy lives by releasing a soothing track of pure unadulterated bird song. We hope that by understanding what we have lost, that we inspire others to take part in the recovery. Without nature our lives are so less complete.”

The track is designed to help reconnect the nation with nature, helping people find a moment to relax and promote a feeling of tranquillity, as birdsong has been proven to aid mental health and promote feelings of well-being.

For a full round-up of all the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch results and to see which birds were visiting gardens where you live, visit