Blackbird top of the tree in Surrey in this year's mass schools' birdwatch (From Redhill And Reigate Life)
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Blackbird top of the tree in Surrey in this year's mass schools' birdwatch
4:30pm Monday 18th March 2013 in Local News
Blackbirds and pigeons dominate Surrey’s schoolgrounds and parks, according to the results from this year’s Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) Big Schools’ Birdwatch.
The latest figures from the mass birdwatch carried out by more than 1,500 pupils and teachers from 32 schools across Surrey, counting the birds in their schoolgrounds for one hour between January 21 and February 1, show that the blackbird was top of the class, closely followed by the woodpigeon and then the blue tit. The fourth most spotted bird was the magpie, with the great tit fifth, the robin sixth, and the carrion crow seventh.
The final three places in the avian top ten were taken by, in order, the house sparrow, the black headed gull and the feral pigeon.
The findings will contribute to the results of the RSPB’s annual Big Garden Birdwatch, the biggest wildlife survey in the world, which will be revealed on March 28.
The RSPB said it is quite natural for blackbirds and pigeons to top the polls as they share a preference for large open grassy spaces, like school playing fields, where they can congregate and seek out natural food, like worms, from the short-cropped grass.
Although, locally, starlings and song thrushes did not feature amongst the top birds spotted in Surrey, the RSPB said that across the UK, with almost 75,000 pupils and teachers taking part in the survey, the findings of the latest birdwatch showed that nationally starlings, song thrushes and gulls are being seen in much greater numbers in schoolgrounds.
Starlings and song thrushes, both species of the highest conservation concern due to massive declines over the last four decades, were up by as much as a quarter on last year.
And several species of gull were also seen in much greater numbers compared to 2012.
Species that were seen less often in schoolgrounds this year included house sparrows and chaffinches. Nationally, house sparrows have declined by more than 70% since 1977 and slipped one place in the UK schools’ top ten this year to number six.
Chaffinches were also pushed down the ranking this year too, dropping out of the top ten to number eleven.
Don Fuller, RSPB South East Youth and Education Officer, said: “It’s wonderful to see this jump in numbers among garden birds like song thrushes and starlings.
“These are species that have suffered substantial losses over many years.”
He said: “It highlights the important role that schoolgrounds and playing fields can have, not only as vital places for free play and active, healthier children, but as homes for some of our most threatened wildlife.”
He added: “It’s encouraging that so many children and teachers continue to take part, especially given the heavy snow and freezing temperatures that hit many parts of the country at the end of January this year.
“Children have fewer opportunities than ever to explore the world around them and get close to nature, but the Birdwatch gives them the green light to get to know wildlife and each year they go for it with boundless enthusiasm.”
The results of the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch will be available on March 28 at the RSPB website at: www.rspb.org.uk/birdwatch