Friday, 29 January 2016

Merseyside, it’s time to join in the world’s largest wildlife survey

Fieldfare and  Redwing on Pyracantha

Over half a million people expected to participate in the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch on 30 and 31 January 2016
People in Merseyside taking part in this year’s Big Garden Birdwatch will be helping to provide conservation scientists with valuable data about the changes in numbers of birds using our gardens in winter, enabling them to help protect our wildlife for future generations. 

More than half a million people are expected to watch and count their garden birds this weekend in what is the world’s largest garden wildlife survey.

For almost forty years, the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch has helped raise awareness of those species in decline like starlings and song thrushes, whose numbers have dropped by an alarming 80 and 70 per cent respectively since the Birdwatch began in 1979

There is slightly better news for the house sparrow, as its long term decline appears to have slowed and it remains the most commonly spotted bird in our gardens. However, its numbers have dropped by 58 per cent since 1979

Dr Daniel Hayhow, RSPB Conservation Scientist, said: “Last year’s survey was another great year for participation. More than half a million people took part and more than 8.5 million birds were spotted in gardens across the country. 

 “With so many people now taking part, the results we get from gardens are very valuable. And as the format of the survey has always been the same, this data can be compared year-on-year. The results help us create an annual ‘snapshot’ of bird numbers across the UK, which, combined with over 30 years’ worth of data, allows us to monitor trends and understand how birds are doing.”

With the last month of 2015 being reported as the wettest and warmest December on record but with temperatures since varying between freezing and unseasonable mild, the results from Big Garden Birdwatch will also help the charity understand how these unusual weather conditions have affected birds visiting gardens this winter.

Ben Andrew, RSPB Wildlife Advisor, said: “If the UK experiences a continuation of these milder temperatures, those taking part in Big Garden Birdwatch may notice their gardens quieter than in other years. The milder weather means that there is more food available in the wider countryside, with birds being less reliant on garden feeders. However, winter is a hard time for our garden wildlife so it’s still vital that people keep their feeders stocked up with a variety of energy-rich food so birds can find food whatever the weather. Either way, mild or cold, it will be fascinating to see how the birds respond this weekend.”

For the third year running, the RSPB is also asking participants to log some of the other wildlife they see in their gardens throughout the year such as hedgehogs, foxes, stoats and squirrels, to help build an overall picture of how important gardens are for giving nature a home. The RSPB will share the results with Amphibian & Reptile Conservation (ARC), People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES) and The Mammal Society to add to their species databases. Results will help all the organisations involved build their understanding about the threats facing garden wildlife 

Dr Fiona Mathews, Chair of The Mammal Society, said: “Gardens can offer fantastic habitat for wild mammals, simply leave things a bit untidy and watch what happens.  For example, a bramble patch and a pile of fallen leaves can provide a good nesting site for hedgehogs, whilst bats will feed on night flying-insects attracted to blackberry flowers.”

Dr John Wilkinson, from Amphibian and Reptile Conservation (ARC), said: "It's great to see that the Big Garden Birdwatch is again recording species such as grass snakes and slow-worms, whose habitats are declining in the wider countryside. Gardens are crucial habitats for much of the UK's pressured biodiversity and you can, for example, encourage slow-worms into your garden by having a compost heap which is left undisturbed over the summer so they can give birth there - they will repay you by demolishing your slugs! If you're lucky, grass snakes may even use your heap for egg-laying."

David Wembridge, Mammal Surveys Co-ordinator, People’s Trust for Endangered Species, said: “Mammals are a less showy lot than birds but their presence in gardens is just as important an indicator of the natural value of these green spaces. Recording wildlife as part of the Big Garden Birdwatch lets us see how rich, surprising and precious our wild neighbours are.”

The survey is part of the RSPB’s Giving Nature a Home campaign, aimed at tackling the housing crisis facing the UK’s threatened wildlife. The RSPB is asking people to provide a place for wildlife in their own gardens and outside spaces – whether it’s putting up a nest box for birds, creating a pond to support a number of different creatures or building a home for a hedgehog. The Big Garden Birdwatch is just one of the steps you can take to help nature near you. 

To take part, simply request a free pack from the RSPB website or register your details to save time on the weekend. 

The RSPB will be live blogging throughout the weekend and offering downloadable bird song on their website as a soundtrack for the bird watch. If you fancy a sweet treat whilst counting the birds, delicious new cake recipes from Frances Quinn, winner of the Great British Bake Off 2013, will also be available on our website. For more information, visit

The parallel event, Big Schools’ Birdwatch takes place on 4 January- 12 February 2016. Further information can be found at

This table shows the top 10 birds seen in Merseyside gardens in 2015

Average number per garden
House sparrow
Blue tit
Feral pigeon
Great tit


Sunday, 17 January 2016

Love Art? An invitation





EXHIBITION open Fridays and Saturdays 12- 5pm 
from Friday 26th February - Saturday 26th March
Or by appointment - please call Bob Williams

Anthony is a freelance Wildlife Artist living and working in Merseyside who specialises in paintings of birds based on sketches and observations made in and around his 'local patch', Merseyside…the Mersey Estuary for example, which  holds large flocks of winter Teal, Pintail and Shelduck as well as other waders. 

I think his paintings are stunning, here’s some of them on his website : (New website coming soon!)

In the exhibition there will be approximately 30 paintings and they will all be for sale.

Sunday, 10 January 2016

Big Garden Birdwatch - 30 and 31 January 2016

The countdown has commenced for the world’s biggest garden wildlife survey – and more people in Merseyside than ever before are being called upon to take part in the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch (January 30-31).
Now in its 37th year, the popular event is fun for all ages and it’s easy to join in. Simply count the birds in your garden or local park for one hour over Big Garden Birdwatch weekend and tell the RSPB what you see.

The 2015 results showed an increase in most of the top 20 birds compared with 2014, thanks to over 585,000 pairs of eyes watching their gardens. The house sparrow retained top spot - who will be this year's hero?

And for the third time in the event’s history, participants are also being asked to log some of the other wildlife which snuffles and settles in their gardens and local parks, and this year there are two new additions to the survey list; slow worms and grass snakes.
To help you prepare for the Big Garden Birdwatch, there are plenty of events taking place in Merseyside throughout January – from discovering how to attract more wildlife into your garden to gaining tips on how to identify the creatures which live on your doorstep.
Go along to RSPB Burton Mere Wetlands on Saturday 23 January between 11 am-3 pm to make a tasty bird cake which you can take home and hang in the garden to attract our feathered friends. RSPB staff and volunteers will also be on hand to offer advice about what to feed garden birds during the winter months. The event is free, but donations are welcome to cover costs of materials.
Learn how to recognise a variety of different garden birds at the reserve’s feeding station. Friendly staff will be able to help you brush up on identification skills in time for the Big Garden Birdwatch, as well as sharing tips on how to attract birds to your garden. Normal reserve entry charges apply for non-members. For more information call 0151 353 8478 or email

In the build-up to Big Garden Birdwatch weekend, head to Sefton Park’s Palm House on Sunday 24 January where members of RSPB Liverpool Local Group will be on hand to share plenty of tips and advice on how to make sure your Big Garden Birdwatch is a success. The free drop-in will run from 12 pm-4 pm. For more information, call 07831 352870 or email

“Last year, around half a million people took part and 8,546,845 birds were counted, so we are hoping even more people join in this year, as the more people involved, the more we can learn. So join in and be part of the world’s biggest garden wildlife survey – without having to leave your sofa.”
Participants can record the birds as they see them directly onto a laptop, tablet or smartphone with an online bird counting tool or send results in the post.
To help attract wildlife into your garden, there are plenty of tips for helping to give nature a home where you live on the RSPB website. No matter how big or small your outside space, there’s something you can do to make a difference. Visit for more information.

Register to take part in Big Garden Birdwatch 2016 at Alternatively, call 0300 456 8330.

Twitter,  #BigGardenBirdwatch.

World’s biggest school wildlife survey celebrates 15 years, with children in Merseyside set to join in the fun
RSPB Big Schools’ Birdwatch, 4 January- 12 February 2016
Tens of thousands of schoolchildren across the UK, including Merseyside, will be peering out of their classroom windows this month to take part in the world’s biggest school wildlife survey.
Now in its 15th year, the RSPB’s Big Schools’ Birdwatch [note 2] helps to track numbers of birds in school grounds, giving the charity an insight into the wildlife which is doing well or not so well, and providing schoolchildren with a great learning experience.
Running from 4 January- 12 February 2016, the survey encourages schoolchildren of all ages, and their teachers, to count the birds in their school grounds for one hour of one day. Each school’s findings help the RSPB’s experts to build a picture of bird populations and monitor any changes, while carrying out the survey helps children to improve their observation skills.
Last year, a record breaking 90,000 pupils and teachers across the UK took part in the Big Schools’ Birdwatch, which revealed the blackbird as the most commonly seen bird in school grounds, with 85% of schools seeing an average of five [see note 3].
Now the RSPB is looking forward to receiving this year’s school wildlife sightings, which also contribute to the results of the RSPB’s annual Big Garden Birdwatch – the biggest wildlife survey in the world, taking place on 30-31 January.
James Harding-Morris, RSPB Big Schools’ Birdwatch Co-ordinator said: “This fun and educational activity is suitable for all ages and abilities and, best of all, it takes just one lesson or lunchtime.
“Research has shown that children are increasingly disconnected from nature [note 4], which is linked to poorer physical and mental health, so this event is a great way to get young people excited about the world around them. It also provides us with valuable information on how some of our familiar birds are doing and encourages the children to help give nature a home.”
There is still time for schools to sign up to take part in the Birdwatch. Teachers, helpers or children don’t need to be experts to take part in the survey. Everything a teacher would need to plan a fantastic Birdwatch, and develop their children’s knowledge and interest in the birds they see everyday, is available to download, including guidance notes, things to make and counting charts. To register to take part, visit

The Big Schools’ Birdwatch and Big Garden Birdwatch are part of the RSPB’s Giving Nature a Home campaign, aimed at tackling the problems facing the UK’s threatened wildlife. For more information on how to give nature a home, visit

Sunday, 3 January 2016

What did you get up to in 2015

So how was your year?

Feeling in a reflective mood as I sit looking out the window on this dreary January Sunday - well it's what you do at new year, put the old year to bed, bank the good memories and plan for the new. 
Despite the foul weather, my garden birds are battling on, the goldfinches (counted over 20 today with a sprinkling of greenfinches too) have taken to picking the seeds from the evening primrose stalks and I've just seen a male house sparrow pass a mealworm to a female, early courtship because of recent mild weather perhaps?
This time last year, the weather was drier and colder and we had an honorary member with us - remember Monty Adelie who went to live with our Fran.

My year, like probably most of you, had highs and lows. But I'm only going to pick out some of the highlights from my year.

Monty Adelie our endearing penguin gifted from Lewis's brought a smile to our faces and raised the group a lot of dosh!
Monty and Crew...Speke Garston Coast Jan 2015

Getting a great and unusual view of a female scoter sitting on the tide line (sadly appeared unwell, waterlogged) straight after seeing the snow buntings on the beach on the Wirral.
Poorly Scoter

It was a miserable day in March when I joined the wildflower centre and friends of Everton Park to scatter wildflower seed on Everton Park, but I enjoyed watching it develop over the year, cumulating in the land life tale of two cities celebration day in July.
Poppies Druid st patch

Our RSPB Croatia trip in May, what can I say- lovely scenery, great birds and good chums. Fond memories of sitting quietly alone, awestruck, listening to nightingales in an olive grove at 7am, and then standing in a dark churchyard searching for scops owls. Wandering through mountain gorges, visiting wetlands, and then there was Pag Island – griffon vultures and the wonderful wryneck. 
Olive groves between beach and mountains

If you haven’t been away with us before, why not review the past blogs; we’ve been to some wonderful places, Norfolk, Cairngorms, Mull, Croatia, and Hungary. .. Maybe join us in future?

A particular happy memory was coming across a nifty stoat in Clock face Country Park, heaving his rabbit dinner back home...small but mighty!
Stealthy stoat in the buttercups

Walking around the coastal path of Anglesey during summer watching peregrines, choughs and ravens. Saving a hedgehog from certain death, as it had become stuck down a cattle grid, I’ll never walk across a grid again without looking down... A trip to Penmon point & Puffin Island on a beautiful spring day seabirds galore including puffins and eider ducks.
Saved - should have gone to specsavers!

Attending the Hen Harrier weekend in August in support of our hen harriers, and other persecuted birds of prey and wildlife. Proud to be part of RSPB Liverpool standing up for nature (the only RSPB group who took a bus load of members by the way)
Hen Harrier champions

Enough from me, if anybody would like to share a few happy/exciting memories with the group; I will post it on our January blog page 
Don’t forget were also have a twitter account @RSPBLiverpool, and our group is now on WhatsApp, a real-time info portal to find out what’s about, certainly has been well used today, pallas warbler, black throated diver, Caspian gull. Once registered on the site call Chris T and he'll add you to our group RSPB Lpool- Local Birds.  Enjoy

Hope 2016 brings you all you could wish for, birdie or otherwise!