More than half a million people are expected to be watching their garden birds this weekend, for the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch.
And with many of the UK’s most common garden birds and other creatures in steep decline, the charity needs participation more than ever.
The weather plays an important role in the number of birds in gardens each winter and experts are interested to see if the helter-skelter conditions around the UK so far this year mean birds seem scarce, or they appear in their droves.
Whatever happens with the weather this weekend, the results will be compared with those from winters in the past, stretching back to the first Big Garden Birdwatch in 1979. Any changes alert experts to track the winners and losers in the garden bird world and long-term trends stand out even when differences in the weather are taken into account.
The top 10 birds spotted in Northamptonshire gardens during the Big Garden Birdwatch 2013, in order of frequency, were: House Sparrow, Starling, Blackbird, Woodpigeon, Blue Tit, Goldfinch, Chaffinch, Collared Dove, Great Tit and Robin.
Starlings hit an all-time low in the 2013 Birdwatch with their numbers sinking by a further 16 per cent from 2012.
Numbers of house sparrows, which are of high conservation concern, dropped by 17 per cent in gardens compared to 2012.
To take part, people are asked to spend just one hour at any time of the Big Garden Birdwatch weekend noting the highest number of each bird species seen in their gardens.
They then have three weeks to submit their results online at www.rspb.org.uk/birdwatch.