Garden BirdWatch Appeal

Thanks to our community of BTO Garden BirdWatchers we already know a lot about the birds and other wildlife using gardens but, with the importance of gardens only just now being recognised, there are some key questions that remain unanswered. With your help we can tackle them.

The Garden BirdWatch Appeal, launched in June 2013, has so far raised £56,000. This money is being used to fund a young scientist to explore the wealth of information collected by Garden BirdWatch participants and to provide the answers that we need to support conservation action.

The first piece of work is already well underway, with Dr Kate Plummer examining the distribution and wider habitat use of Blackcaps wintering in British and Irish gardens. Kate is using the Garden BirdWatch, together with weather data (derived from Met Office weather stations), to explore and test possible underlying reasons for the distribution patterns that we are seeing. Regional and habitat-based plots of the raw GBW data suggest a preference for the south-west of the UK in winter and a preference for urban habitats over rural ones, something that Kate will be able to test formally through her analyses.

Kate will then move on to tackle some other questions, including:

What is happening to garden wildlife?

We have produced figures that show how garden bird populations have changed over time. Now we want to use new statistical approaches to do the same for amphibians, mammals, butterflies and the other garden wildlife that our participants record. For some of these species, Garden BirdWatch records will provide our first robust measure of changing populations.

Garden BirdWatch records can reveal the role of gardens within the wider landscape. We want to explore how different birds respond to the landscape surrounding gardens. Are birds using rural gardens doing better than those using urban ones? If so, can we use this information to predict the impacts of urban expansion and advise on better ways to manage and plan for the growth of towns and cities?What effect is urbanisation having?

How is our wildlife responding to a changing climate?

The weekly submissions made by BTO Garden BirdWatchers provide a unique insight into the flight periods of butterflies and the spring emergence of Hedgehogs and frogs. We will use this information to explore how garden wildlife is responding to climate change, so that we can provide advice on how to manage gardens in ways that help wildlife to adapt.

What happens when seed crops fail?

Just how important are gardens for berry- and seed-eating birds in those years when crops in the wider countryside fail? With your support we can examine the key role that gardens play when conditions get tough in the wider countryside.

Find out more about our Garden BirdWatch project.