RSPB's Big Garden Birdwatch makes big numbers in the north

"The wildlife we see around where we live, such as a blackbird singing from a rooftop or a robin perched in a tree, is often one of the first experiences we have with nature", said Keith Morton, RSPB Scotland's species policy officer.

United Kingdom gardens also saw a "waxwing winter" with a huge number of the unusual migrant birds which flocked to the country from Scandinavia in search of food.

More than eight million birds were recorded.

This year's results also pointed to the positive effects that wildlifefriendly gardens are having on bird behaviour. Chaffinches, blue tits and blackbirds complete the top five.

In some years only a handful of the birds are seen in Scotland, but every few years there is an invasion - technically called an irruption - when berry crops fail in their normal range and they move further afield to feed.

These attractive looking birds flock to United Kingdom gardens in winter when the berry crop fails in their native counries and this year a rash of them were reported by people in the North East taking part in RSPB's Big Garden Birdwatch.

Along with waxwings, there was a rise in the number of migrating birds, such as redwing, fieldfare and brambling which were attracted by our milder conditions compared to the sub-zero temperatures on the continent.

There was also good news for robins, which climbed from number nine in 2016 to number eight this year in the rankings in Tyne and Wear.

"Conditions in Scandinavia in autumn and early winter led to suggestions that we could see a much higher influx of waxwings this year and the survey results indicate that this was the case".

Waxwings were seen in around 11 times more gardens in 2017 than in the last couple of years.

More than 6,300 Scottish school children took part in the RSPB's accompanying Big Schools Birdwatch. We're increasingly seeing rural birds in gardens and urban settings such as goldfinches. The top three was rounded off by starling and woodpigeon.

Blackbirds remained the most common playground visitors, followed by carrion crows and starlings.

"Our gardens and school grounds are a valuable space for birds, creating the food, water and a safe place to shelter they need throughout the year", she said. Wildlife friendly gardens can provide birds, and other wildlife such as insects, amphibians and mammals, with places for them to eat, shelter, and bring up their young.

  • Leroy Wright