Birds do so much to reduce the population of garden pests, and that's enough of a reason alone to support the latest Royal Society for the Protection of Birds Big Garden Birdwatch. The 2006 event is to be held over the last weekend in January (28th and 29th) and hundreds of thousands of people are expected to participate.

The RSPB are hoping to at least mirror the interest in the 2005 event, when over 400,000 spent an hour watching and recording more than 6 million of their local bird populations across 200,000 parks and gardens.

The countrywide event is simple to take part in; just watch an area of your garden or local park for one hour on either the Saturday or Sunday, record the birds you see and notify the RSPB of the highest number of each species you see at any one time during the hour. You can send your results to the RSPB online or contact them on 0870 600 7108 for a leaflet.

The results from the birdwatch are particularly useful in helping the society record the most common garden birds as well as identifying any species which may be in decline, and at risk of being added to the RSPB Red List. The list records any species – globally – which has seen it’s population plummet by more than 50% in a 25 year period, or has gradually declined and not recovered. Of course, this information helps the Society to concentrate its efforts on helping the birds on the Red List before the population becomes dangerously depleted. The information recorded from the Big Garden Birdwatch also enables the society to accurately update their Amber List, which includes species whose numbers are also declining but not at a rate which warrants their inclusion on the Red List, but also the bird populations which the UK are responsible for.

The 2005 Big garden Birdwatch placed the House Sparrow in first position, with an average of 4.56 birds recorded per hour in each garden. Second place went to the Starling (3.63) and the Blue Tit finished in third with 2.9 sightings. Just outside the medals was the Blackbird on 2.42. Interestingly, out of these four species, only the Blue Tit showed an increase in numbers since 1979; a rise of 17.2%. The other three species have all declined in the same period; the House Sparrow by 54.4%, Starling by a worryingly 75.8% and the Blackbird by 39.5%.

These results have enabled more care, products and food to be introduced for the species in decline, and we would urge you to contact the RSPB, give up an hour over the weekend of 28th and 29th of January, and help preserve our traditional, native garden birds – which, after all, do so much good in the garden.