As expected, small birds struggled to survive the big freeze: long tailed tits, who had prospered over a succession of mild winters, dropped by 27% compared to last year, when they made the top ten for the first time. The biggest decline was in goldcrest sightings – down by 75%. Losses would have been worse without the tremendous response to calls for keeping bird tables well stocked.
Another effect of the hard winter was a movement of countryside birds into gardens in their search for food. Sightings of redwings increased by 185%, fieldfares by 73% and song thrushes by 51%. Yellowhammers and bullfinches were also more frequent garden visitors.
An interesting result was a 47% rise in blackcap observations, which might be explained by migrants escaping even worse conditions on the continent as well as a growing adaptation to bird feeders.
Topping the league as usual were house sparrows, blackbirds and starlings, but the overall the trend is for these garden birds to decline, reflecting a shrinking of habitat since the first survey in 1979.
Over half a million people took part in the Great Garden Birdwatch, held on the weekend of January 30-31, which makes it the largest wildlife survey in the world.
1. House sparrow
4. Blue tit
6. Wood pigeon
8. Great tit
9. Collared dove
The long tailed tit in the photo is tucking into Buggy nibbles, an irresistible mix of suet and mealworms, an RSPB best-seller that is suitable for feeding all year round, including the breeding season.