The UK public welcomes the wildlife in the garden during the coronavirus lockdown
Gardens and their wildlife have provided homeowners a significant opportunity to engage with nature, say researchers who run the weekly BTO Garden BirdWatch, the results of which for 2020 were announced today.
BTO’s Garden BirdWatch survey has been conducted since 1995. Around 12,000 people submit information from their gardens every week throughout the year. When the closure was introduced last spring and the excursions into the countryside were limited, many of us were not only more interested in our gardens, but also in the wild animals they supported.
The number of attendees in GBW in 2020 has more than doubled, providing BTO scientists with a unique window in gardens across the UK in a unique year. Participation in the survey enabled people to deal with their garden world in a meaningful way, to make a contribution to citizen science and to improve their own well-being in a particularly challenging time.
Goldcrest, Copyright Glyn Sellors, from the Surfbirds Galleries
Rob Jaques of the BTO GBW team said, “BTO Garden BirdWatch offers its participants wellbeing and learning benefits, both of which were particularly important over the past year. The number of people who sign up for double entry during the lockdown shows how important the garden wildlife is during this difficult time. Active participation in Citizen Science increases engagement with both science and nature, and prompts participants to increase their support for broader campaigns and take positive action in support of nature. If we can spark this newfound interest and enthusiasm, we can do even more for the wildlife in the garden. “
2020, probably more than any other year, showed the importance of gardens to wildlife and humans. For more information on how to get your garden counted for science, visit www.bto.org/gbw (http: // www. Bto.org/gbw)
The main results from 2020 were:
In the mild winter of 2019/20, small birds such as wren, long-tailed tit and golden comb improved overwintering survival, all of which have to struggle in times of hard frost and long snow cover. Wren and Goldcrest in the gardens were up 11% year-over-year while long-tailed tit was up 3%.
In the mild winter of 2019/20, fewer migrant finches and thrushes used gardens, with many staying in the countryside or wintering further north and east across Europe. Brambling, Redwing and Fieldfare were uncommon in gardens in the winter of 2019/20.
Spring 2020 was exceptionally warm for most of us, resulting in the early emergence of Holly Blue butterflies, which is very evident in the weekly Garden BirdWatch observations. Records of the first brood of this delicate little butterfly peaked at 29% of the gardens in the week beginning April 19, 2020, compared to the longer-term average of 11% for that week (2010-2019 average). The first breeding peak was about four weeks earlier than the long-term average for the gardens.
The 2020 breeding season was bad for many core species of garden birds. The blue tit and great tit showed reduced breeding success and an associated decrease in garden coverage in summer and early autumn.
The dry early summer also affected the birds, which rely on bottom invertebrates to feed themselves and their young. This important source of food is locked away under baked hard earth. Both Song Thrush and Blackbird fought, and their Garden BirdWatch reporting rates fell accordingly.
2020 was a strong year for sparrowhawk in gardens, highlighting the species’ recovery and repopulation of former areas. We have also seen a continuation of the increase in ringed parakeets in gardens across southern England. While this alien species adds a dash of exotic color and noise, it can present some conservation challenges as it has been shown to compete with other birds in nesting holes and displace other types of garden feeding stations. Ringed Parakeet was registered from 7% of the participating gardens.