Page last updated at 18:04 GMT, Sunday, 25 January 2009

'Half a million' join Birdwatch

A goldfinch perching on a tree
Goldfinches are making a comeback - there are 300,000 pairs in Britain

Bird lovers across Britain have joined in the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds Big Garden Birdwatch.

It is thought half a million people were involved in this year's survey, counting birds in a garden or local park for one hour overthe weekend.

Sunday's unsettled weather resulted in fewer sightings compared to Saturday which was largely clear and cold.

In Dorset a couple taking part were amazed to spot a raccoon up a tree and called in the RSPCA to rescue it.

People taking part in the survey were asked to submit the number of birds they see to the RSPB, which will publish the results in March.

It is just as important to see which birds are not around as which birds are there
Tim Webb
The RSPB's Tim Webb, who lives in Hackney, east London, said: "I have not seen any house sparrows or starlings and they should be our most common bird.

"They have been in decline so it will be interesting to see how many have been spotted nationally."

He added: "It is very important people send their results in to us whether or not they have seen anything.

"It is just as important to see which birds are not around as which birds are there"

Eileen Nelson, 58, who lives in Lancashire, spotted a goldfinch - a bird that traditionally spends its winter in warmer southern Europe.

She said: "We normally don't get goldfinches at all - it's only in these last couple of days that I have seen one. The survey will show the RSPB which breeds it needs to help."

Unusual birds

The RSPB says that since the project began in 1979, volunteers have spent some three million hours looking for birds. Unusual birds already reported this year include redpolls, yellowhammers and bramblings.

Dr Mark Avery, the RSPB's director of conservation, said: "Despite the recent cold spell, UK winters are significantly warmer than they were 30 years ago.

"Through Big Garden Birdwatch we can all see the effect this is having on the birds in our gardens."

Are you taking part in Birdwatch? Have you spotted anything of interest? How long have you participated in the project?

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