The results of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds’ Big Garden Birdwatch (BGB) have been revealed.
Almost half a million people took part in the event’s 40th year, recording 7.5 million birds over an hour in January.
15 of our top 20 birds are down in number from last year, including long-tailed tits and wrens. The decline in smaller birds may be due, in part, to last year’s ‘Beast from the East’.
The house sparrow was the most sighted bird in the UK, although numbers are down 56% since the BGB began.
However, in the last decade numbers have increased by 10%, giving Daniel Hayow, RSPB Conservation Scientist ‘hope that a partial recovery may be happening’.
Martin Harper, the RSPB’s Director of Conservation said “Our garden birds should be a part of our everyday life. For many people they provide our only connection to the natural world and bring enormous joy. To have hundreds of thousands of people spend an hour watching the wildlife in their garden doesn’t only help us build up a picture of how our garden birds are doing, but people who take part feel better.”
Half a million members of the Royal Horticultural Society add 22 million plants to gardens across the UK every year, the society has found.
The online survey was completed by 2,000 members. When extrapolated to include all half a million RHS members, the planted area covers 350 football pitches and includes over150 thousand trees.
A massive 96% of members believe in the health benefits of gardening, and 95% think it is beneficial to the environment.
77% of members choose plants for bees, and 44% consider other pollinators.
Sue Biggs, RHS Director General, says: 'We know most of our members are active gardeners, but these figures are stunning and exceeded our expectations with the amount, and diversity, of plants they are adding each year.'
'This is immensely positive for wildlife, the environment and numerous other benefits, including cooling local areas in summer, flood protection, air quality improvement, noise reduction and wellbeing benefits.'
To recognise the work of members, the RHS is expanding the 'Greening Grey Britain' Campaign to 'Greening Great Britain', to highlight the importance of growing plants in any setting.
Sue said of the project: ‘Through Greening Great Britain with all our amazing supporters we’ll continue to champion why gardening and growing more plants matters.’
New research from the Innovative Farmers Field Lab has found that treating leafy green crops seeds in hot water reduces leaf spot disease.
By heating seeds in water before planting, pathogens, including the fungus that causes leaf spot disease, are killed.
Riverford Organic Farmers, with the help of the Organic Research Centre, took part in the experiment over the past several years, comparing treated and untreated yields of chard.
Treatment could increase yields by £6,000 per hectare over a season. Crops without disease are also easier to harvest, saving on labour costs.
Guy Singh-Watson, Riverford founder and organic farmer, said: “Farmer-led research is absolutely crucial as we are the ones on the ground and know our land better than anyone.’
‘As more and more chemical products are withdrawn, ecological techniques like hot water seed treatment will become increasingly important’
‘Conducting research on real farms proves the validity of the techniques in field settings and can give farmers and growers the confidence that they are viable and cost-effective solutions.’