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Will They Stay or Will They go?

Records of garden birds needed in this remarkable year.

Gardens were unusually empty of birds last winter, but the warm spring and summer meant that bird numbers picked up very rapidly, according to results from the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) Garden BirdWatch. Will numbers remain high into the autumn, or will our garden birds leave us, as they did last year? The BTO needs help to find out.

Many gardens were unusually quiet at the start of the year, with Blackbirds, Robins, Song Thrushes and Chaffinches seen in lower numbers than usual due to the abundance of food in the countryside. However, the warm spring weather led to an early breeding season, meaning that birds returned to gardens in force. According to counts made by volunteer Garden BirdWatch recorders, average Robin numbers were higher than in the previous two years, perhaps boosted by the mild winter as well as a good breeding season. Another well-known visitor, the Great Tit, rapidly increased in numbers in May, reaching the highest average numbers seen in this month in the last seven years. Dunnocks, Blue Tits and Great Spotted Woodpeckers also appeared to thrive in gardens during the summer of 2014.

The big question, though, is will they stay? Last winter birds were absent from garden bird feeders because they were able to make the most of the food in the wider countryside, and at the moment it looks like this might be another bumper year for berries.

Kate Risely, the Garden BirdWatch Organiser, commented, "Our volunteers provide us with invaluable data about what is happening in gardens. Without them, we won’t be able to see how our birds fare this winter. Anyone who spends a few minutes each week watching what the birds get up to in their garden is already doing enough to take part in the BTO Garden BirdWatch. Get in touch with us for a free magazine and information pack on how to take part."

With another berry-rich year, it is important to see how the rest of this year will compare to last. Could we be in for a run of quiet winters or will the birds flock back into our gardens this autumn? Help us find out!

To get your free magazine and information pack, or to find out more about the BTO Garden BirdWatch please get in touch by emailing gbw@bto.org ( gbw@bto.org ), telephoning 01842 750050, or write to GBW, BTO, The Nunnery, Thetford, Norfolk, IP24 2PU.

Clare Simm

2nd October 2014