Page last updated at 11:30 GMT, Monday, 29 March 2010 12:30 UK

Cold weather leads to rise in unusual birds in gardens

Countryside birds such as the fieldfare were seen in gardens

The harsh winter has seen a rise in the number of countryside birds visiting Scottish gardens, according to a survey by the RSPB Scotland.

The most commonly seen species in gardens was the chaffinch, for the fourth year in a row.

But birds such as fieldfares and redwings were also spotted as they left fields and woods in search of food.

About 37,000 Scots took part in the Big Garden Birdwatch survey, the largest number in the poll's history.

A total of 70 individual species were recorded in more than 17,000 gardens.

The chaffinch was most commonly seen species, with an average of 5.77 recorded in each garden.

House sparrows, starlings, blackbirds and blue tits were also frequently spotted.

Significant drop

Tiny birds such as the coal tit and long-tailed tit, which are particularly vulnerable to the cold, suffered a significant drop in numbers.

But migratory species from the thrush family, including the fieldfare and redwing, as well as the bullfinch and yellowhammer, were seen visiting gardens as they searched for food further afield.

Dr Paul Walton, of RSPB Scotland, said it had been a "difficult start" to the year for birds.

Dr Walton, head of species and habitats at the charity, said birds had been forced to cope with the longest prolonged cold snap for 30 years.

"It's been fascinating this year to see the hard weather bringing more unusual birds into people's gardens looking for food," he added.

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