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Grantham Rivercare leaders say it is time to take stock of that precious and vanishing resource - garden birds

It’s that time again! Time to take stock of that precious and vanishing resource - garden birds, write David Martin and Ian Simmons, co-leaders of Grantham Rivercare.

Every year, since 1979, the RSPB have run their Big Garden Birdwatch which invites householders to spend an hour recording feathery visitors to their gardens (other viewing places are allowed, including your favourite spot along the river!).

Last year over half a million people took part, making the data submitted one of the largest citizen science projects in the world, helping build a picture of the natural health of our most visible wildlife, counting around nine million birds. This year the dates are between 26th and 28th January. A useful link can be found here: rspb.co.uk/ birdwatch

Grantham RiverCare co-leaders David Martin (left) and Ian Simmons
Grantham RiverCare co-leaders David Martin (left) and Ian Simmons

Our readers will possibly remember a recent ‘Tales’ where we highlighted the rapid decline in bird numbers. Where have they all gone and why? Answers on a postcard to the usual address.

The top five recorded in 2023 were the House Sparrow, Blue Tit, Starling, Wood Pigeon and Blackbird. While House Sparrows topped the charts for the twentieth year, numbers have dropped by 60% since 1979.

Birds that we remember from our youth, such as the Song Thrush are down 80% since the survey began. The RSPB estimates that we have lost 38 million birds from the UK skies in the last 60 years.

While we have seen this decline in slow motion, the River Witham is home to a variety of birdlife.

Of course, the most visible is the fluctuating population of Mallard ducks who come and go depending on the time of year, the weather and the availability of food. There is the family of Swans that cruise sedately up and down the river. Every sighting of our local Kingfisher brightens the day and many photographers visit the river with the aim of capturing an image of it. We have also have a local population of Magpies, Corvids (Crows, Jackdaws and Ravens), Wagtails and Collared Doves within Wyndham Park.

Further downstream in QE Park you will often see Herons and Little Egrets. A number of ‘raptor’ boxes have been installed by volunteers to encourage larger birds with the hope that Kestrels or Owls will build their nests here. You may even hear - rather than spot - a Woodpecker or two. Look up and you will often see Red Kites soaring on thermals looking for any carrion that they may feed on.

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