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Look out for punk rockers: potential increase in number of waxwings during UK's yearly bird survey.
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Look out for punk rockers: potential increase in number of waxwings during UK’s yearly bird survey.

This weekend, individuals are encouraged to spend an hour observing and recording the birds they spot in their gardens, balconies, parks, and school grounds to determine the magnitude of this winter’s waxwing population.

The magnificent birds with mohawks have been observed throughout Britain during the winter season and will be documented alongside common species like sparrows, blackbirds, and robins in the RSPB’s yearly Big Garden Birdwatch.

Beccy Speight, the CEO of the RSPB, described waxwings as remarkable birds that resemble punk rockers when perched in trees. Despite their popularity this winter, Speight has yet to spot any and is eagerly on the lookout for them.

The data collected by the garden birdwatch, which has been ongoing for a long time, has revealed the fluctuation of bird populations in gardens, parks, and cities. There are now 38 million fewer birds in the sky compared to almost 50 years ago.

House sparrows traditionally top the list – and did so again last winter, with an average of more than four per count – but have declined by 57% since recording began in 1979. Starlings have similarly plummeted in number (down 81% since 1979) and many other common species, including robins and blackbirds, are in long-term decline. Wood pigeon numbers have soared (up 1,048%) with significant increases for goldfinches, magpies and great tits as well.

The increasing use of bird feeders and the availability of seeds in gardens during colder months have been advantageous for goldfinches and great tits. The RSPB also emphasized the advantages of birds for people.

Speight stated that we often overlook the fact that the natural world is just a window away. Participating in birdwatching allows us to connect with the wildness around us and can spark interest in nature. It’s like a magical door that is easily accessible. From personal experience, Speight believes that taking a moment to observe birds can have a restorative effect on mental health and overall wellbeing.

Studies revealed that individuals increased their time spent in natural environments during the Covid outbreak and periods of confinement. However, a recent release from the Office for National Statistics revealed that a significant number of people have returned to their pre-pandemic behaviors, resulting in over a million fewer individuals engaging in nature-related activities.

The president of the RSPB, Dr Amir Khan, stated that taking a break from his busy schedule to appreciate the birds that come to his garden has a positive impact on his mental well-being. This activity increases serotonin levels, also known as the “happy brain chemical,” which boosts his mood and decreases stress levels.

I urge anyone who is able to participate in this year’s Big Garden Birdwatch, whether in a garden, on a balcony, or in a nearby park. It’s an enjoyable, no-cost activity open to all, and a great way to spend an hour connecting with our vulnerable wildlife.

Source: theguardian.com