Wales

Over half a million people will be taking part in the world's biggest wildlife survey this weekend - the RSPB's Big Garden Birdwatch.

Simply spend one hour over the weekend of 28-29 January, counting the birds in your garden or local park, and record the highest number of each bird species seen at any one time.

After some inspiration? Have a look at some popular garden bird species in our picture gallery.

This winter has seen temperatures go from mild, to freezing, and back again, with ice, snow, wind and rain all thrown into the mix.

And after two cold winters before it, the wildlife charity is eager to find out what this year's confusing weather will mean for our garden birds.

RSPB Cymru's Dana Thomas said; "The last few months have been anything but predictable so it will be interesting to see what kinds of birds people are seeing this weekend, and in what numbers."

"With plenty of natural food still about some of the usual suspects might be a bit elusive, but heavy rain and strong winds could send other surprises our way.

"And spring-like signs might even be inspiring early breeding activities. There's already been lots of evidence of birds recce-ing potential nest sites so whatever the weather, it'll be a busy time."

The mild and wet weather has meant a different atmosphere in Wales's gardens and calls to the RSPB's wildlife enquiries team shows that it's having an impact on wildlife too.

The wildlife charity usually gets calls during the autumn from people asking where the birds have gone, but this has carried on for longer into the winter.

The Big Garden Birdwatch is an important tool in spotting early trends in bird numbers. Doing the survey in winter allows us to predict how birds are faring ahead of the breeding season.

Garden bird feeder by Brian Mottershead.

It doesn't matter what type of garden or outside space you have, in the survey's 33 year history, participants have watched birds in all sorts of alternative gardens.

February can be the harshest month of the year and a time when birds should be getting well fed to get in shape for the breeding season. Good energy supplies now give them the best chance of producing healthy young.

Big Garden Birdwatch events taking place around Wales this weekend:

RSPB Glaslyn Osprey site, Pont Croesor

There will be activities for young and old to encourage an interest in nature and promote RSPB membership. Fee: no charge / age group: everyone. More info please call Geraint Williams on 07921 284 321

Frongoch Garden Centre, Caernarfon

Join RSPB Staff to monitor bird activity on the Centre's feeders. Fee: no charge / age group: everyone. More info please call Geraint Williams on 07921 284 321

RSPB Conwy reserve, LL31 9XZ

Find out how to attract lots of birds to your garden and learn how to identify and record them for the Big Garden Birdwatch. Bird cake making for children between 1.30 - 3.30pm. Fee: Bird cakes 50p each / age group: families. More info please call Charlie Stretton on 01492 584 091.

RSPB South Stack Visitor Centre, Holyhead, LL65 1YH

28 January from 11am - 4pm. A fun day of learning how to make your garden a wildlife haven, attract birds and other wildlife into your garden and take part in many games and activities. Take home a big garden bird watch form, do the survey and become a wildlife hero. Fee: free / age group: Families. Contact Hayley Riseborough on 01407 762100 for more info.

Rhug Estate Farm Shop and Restaurant, Corwen, Denbighshire, LL21 0EH

Find out how you can attract birds into your garden and visit the Rhug Estate New Farm Shop and Restaurant. Fee: free / age group: all. For more information please contact Kim Boccato, Giuseppe Boccato on 07921 283 685.

Portmeirion Village, Minfordd, Gwynedd, LL48 6ER

Discover which birds visit your garden and how to join in the RSPB Big Garden Bird Watch Survey. Meet the resident birds of the inspirational Portmeirion Village, Estuary and Woodland. Portmeirion entrance charge applies, Downloadable Winter Entry Voucher reducing entrance to £1 for adults, children free, available on the Portmeirion website. For more information please contact Kim Boccato, Giuseppe Boccato on 07921 283 685.

Newport Wetlands Visitor Centre, West Nash Road, Newport, NP18 2B

Sunday 29 January from 1-3pm. Take part in a quiz to see how many of the top 20 birds from last year you can recognise. Venture out onto the reserve on a guided walk to identify the birds that call Newport Wetlands home and make a fat feeder to attract birds to your garden before taking home your very own survey sheet so you can take part in the RSPB's Big Garden Bird Watch. Fee: £3.50 per child / RSPB Child member £2 / age group: 5-12 years. Please call Hana Callard on 01633 636351 and Tara Okon on 01633 636354 for more info.

Techniquest, Stuart Street, Cardiff bay, CF10 5BW

29 January. A joint event with Techniquest Science Discovery Centre to include an information stall, children's make and take activities and guided walks around the Cardiff bay nature reserve in the company of knowledgeable local volunteers and staff members.

Fee: Normal Techniquest entry charges apply. Walks will be bookable on a first come first served basis and limited to four groups of 20. A small donation may be requested for make and take activities / age group: all. Suitable footwear will be required for the walks, all adults to supervise their children). Please call Phil Pinder / Helen Mears on 02920 353 000 for more info.

Roath Park Lake, Cardiff

From 10-4pm at the lighthouse end of the lake. Learn about the Birds of Roath Park Lake and get advice on feeding your garden birds and learn how you can take part in this years Big Garden Birdwatch. Fee: no charge but donations are welcome / age group: families. For more info please call James Bainton on 02920 353 000

Forestry Commission Wales Bwlch Nant yr Arian site, SY23 3AD

27 January from 10-4pm.Come watch the beautiful Red Kites at Bwlch Nant yr Arian as they swoop down from the skies to pick up their meal. After watching this fantastic wildlife spectacle, find out what types of birds are native to the area and see how many different birds you can spot in your garden.

Fee: Free. Car park charge of £1.50 / Age group: all ages welcome. For more info please call Joe Hawthorne on 07525 722898

This table shows the average number of the 2011 top 10 species of birds recorded per garden across Wales, and compares this with the results from the 2010 and 1979 surveys.

Species

Average per garden in 1979

Average per garden in 2010

Average per garden in 2011

% change

1979-2011

house sparrow

10.0

4.92

5.389

-46.11

starling

15.0

4.55

7.480

-50.13

blue tit

2.4

3.63

4.374

82.25

chaffinch

3.0

3.61

3.701

23.37

blackbird

4.0

3.42

3.609

-9.78

robin

2.0

1.73

1.728

-13.6

collared dove

.28

1.17

1.17

317.86

goldfinch

-

1.13

1.208

-

great tit

0.9

1.8

1.989

121

wood pigeon

0.2

0.82

0.79

295

Visit the RSPB website for more information and to submit your results online.

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