Schoolchildren ready to survey Britain’s birds

Blackbird was the most recorded species on school grounds last year, visiting 87 per cent of sites surveyed by pupils. Andreas Trepte (commons.wikimedia.org).
Blackbird was the most recorded species on school grounds last year, visiting 87 per cent of sites surveyed by pupils. Andreas Trepte (commons.wikimedia.org).
Thousands of schoolchildren across Britain will be swapping books for binoculars this term to take part in the RSPB’s Big Schools’ Birdwatch.

The Big Schools’ Birdwatch 2017, Britain’s biggest schools wildlife survey, takes place during the first half of the spring term, with schools able to take part from now until 17 February. The survey aims to help children discover the wildlife they share their school grounds with, while providing a helpful insight into which species are thriving and which are declining.

According to research conducted by the RSPB, one in five children are disconnected from nature. The Big Schools’ Birdwatch aims to inspire children to care more about the natural world around them in the hope that in turn they’ll want to help protect it for future generations.

Last year 90,000 pupils took part by counting the birds that visited their school grounds, counting over 80,000 birds. It is hoped that even more pupils will partake in 2017.

Over the years, more than 70 different species have been recorded in UK school grounds, ranging from the familiar Starlings and House Sparrows to more unusual visitors such as Red Kites and Green Woodpeckers. The humble Blackbird remained the most common playground visitor in 2016 with 87 per cent of participating schools recording the species. The top three was rounded off by Starling in second place and Woodpigeon in third.

Since its launch in 2002, the Big Schools’ Birdwatch has provided many opportunities for children and teachers to learn about how to give nature a home in their school grounds. Many schools prepare for the event in advance by putting up feeders and nestboxes and making bird cake. Seeing and counting the birds coming to their feeders during the Big Schools Birdwatch is the perfect reward for their efforts.

Judy Paul, RSPB Scotland’s Education, Families and Volunteering Manager said: “We hope that the excitement of taking part in Big Schools’ Birdwatch will inspire children to explore the natural world around them, especially what they can find on their doorstep, as well as showing them the role that citizen science has to play in painting a picture of how birds are faring over the winter.

“While children today are increasingly disconnected with nature, here at RSPB Scotland we're providing as many opportunities as we can for them to discover the wonderful wildlife in their neighbourhoods and beyond. Spending time in the outdoors is linked to improved physical and mental health and we also want children to enjoy finding out about nature and have fun while doing it.”

The Big Schools' Birdwatch is the school version of the Big Garden Birdwatch – the world's biggest garden wildlife survey aimed at families and individuals. The event will take place over three days on 28, 29 and 30 January 2017 and further information can be found on the RSPB website rspb.org.uk/birdwatch.

To register to take part in the 2017 RSPB Big Schools’ Birdwatch, visit rspb.org.uk/schoolswatch, where everything schools need to take part is available to download.