Who's moving into your garden?

01 May 2011 | No. 2011-18

New housing has become widespread in eastern England during recent decades, as the region’s population has boomed. Very little is known, however, about how birds and other animals colonise these areas, and many unfamiliar faces are likely to be turning up. The British Trust for Ornithology’s (BTO) Garden BirdWatch team wants help finding out which ones!

The relatively open structure of newly-
created gardens may suit the Robin

Of the top ten fastest growing cities in the UK, half are found in eastern England. Cambridge and Norwich are in the top five – having both expanded by 10% in the past decade, while Milton Keynes is in top spot – having expanded by 14%. Indeed, during recent decades, the population of Cambridgeshire, Lincolnshire and Northamptonshire has grown faster than anywhere else in England. This vast swell in numbers has led to numerous new housing initiatives. While sometimes controversial, these projects present a fantastic opportunity to investigate the importance of new gardens for local wildlife and how birds and other animal communities settle in and change over time.

The relatively open structure of newly-created gardens might suit certain species, such as Starlings, Blackbirds and Robins. As vegetation matures, however, new species are likely to be attracted – but exactly which ones? We simply don’t know! Lots of new houses are set to be built over the coming years across the country, as the human population continues to expand, so it is important to consider what benefits new developments may bring to wildlife.

Typically, modern gardens are smaller than older ones, with patios and decking more widespread, and vegetable plots and herbaceous borders less so, than in the past. Such changes could have a substantial influence on numbers of House Sparrows, Starlings, thrushes and other wildlife. The BTO Garden BirdWatch team wants to team up with people who own new and relatively new (under 30 years) houses to discover more by recording birds and other garden wildlife.

Dr Tim Harrison, BTO Garden BirdWatch, commented: “Many people living in new-build housing estates might think that their garden wildlife is scant or unimportant. But any birds that are attracted to new gardens are of real interest and the BTO wants to know which species move in as neighbours. We have produced a special ‘taster’ pack for anyone who might like to help us.”

He added: “The BTO’s Garden BirdWatch survey is the largest year-round survey of garden birds in the world, and also enables participants to record other garden wildlife – such as mammals, butterflies and amphibians. We need gardens of all ages in the survey, and would especially like to encourage locals who live in houses that were built in the last 30 years to get involved.”

Give BTO Garden BirdWatch a go by requesting a free three-week ‘taster’ pack: email garden.ecology [at] bto.org or telephone 01842 750050

Notes for Editors

  1. The BTO is the UK’s leading bird research organisation. Over thirty thousand birdwatchers contribute to the BTO’s surveys. They collect information that forms the basis of conservation action in the UK. The BTO maintains a staff of 100 at its offices in Norfolk and Stirling, who analyse and publicise the results of project work. The BTO’s investigations are funded by government, industry and conservation organisations.Visitwww.bto.org
  2. The BTO Garden BirdWatch is the only nationwide survey of garden birds to run weekly throughout the year, providing important information on how birds use gardens, and how this use changes over time. Currently, some 15,000 people take part in the project. The project is funded by participants’ contributions and is the largest year-round survey of garden birds in the world. For more information see www.bto.org/gbw

Contact Information

Tim Harrison (Garden BirdWatch Development Officer)
Office: 01842 750050 (9am-5.30pm)
Email: gbw [at] bto.org

Paul Stancliffe (BTO Press Officer)
Office: 01842 750050 (9am-5.30pm)
Mobile: 07585 440910 (anytime)
Email: press [at] bto.org

Images are available for use alongside this News Release
Please contact images [at] bto.org quoting reference 2011-18

The BTO has an ISDN line available for radio interviews
Please contact us to book an interview Office: 01842 750050

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