Eagle-eyed schoolchildren set to count the nation’s birds

Corncrake, Crex crex. Oronsay RSPB reserve, Argyll. Scotland. May 2006.

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Corncrake, Crex crex. Oronsay RSPB reserve, Argyll. Scotland. May 2006.
How many children will record seeing a corncrake at their school? Photograph: Oronsay RSPB reserve, Argyll.

 

Thousands of schoolchildren across Scotland will be swapping books for binoculars this term to take part in the UK’s biggest schools wildlife survey.

The RSPB’s Big Schools’ Birdwatch 2017 takes place during the first half of the spring term, with schools able to take part from now until February 17. The survey helps children discover the wonderful wildlife they share their school grounds with, whilst providing a helpful insight into which species are thriving or declining.

According to research conducted by the RSPB, one in five children are disconnected from nature. Big Schools’ Birdwatch aims to inspire children to care about the natural world around them in the hope they’ll want to help protect it for future generations.

Last year almost 7,500 pupils from schools all across Scotland took part by counting the birds that visited their school grounds, and it is hoped even more will take part this year.

Over the years, more than 70 different species have been recorded in UK school grounds, ranging from starlings and house sparrows, to red kites and green woodpeckers.

In Scotland the blackbird remained the most common playground visitor in 2016, with 86 per cent of participating schools spotting one of these birds. The top three was rounded off by starlings in second place and carrion crows in third.

Since its launch in 2002, the Big Schools’ Birdwatch has provided many opportunities for children and teachers to learn about how to give nature a home in their school grounds. Many schools prepare for the event in advance by putting up feeders and nestboxes, and making bird cake. Seeing and counting the birds coming to their feeders during the Big Schools Birdwatch is the perfect reward for their efforts.

Judy Paul, RSPB Scotland’s education, families and volunteering manager said: ‘We hope that the excitement of taking part in Big Schools’ Birdwatch will inspire children across Scotland to explore the natural world around them, especially what they can find on their doorstep, as well as showing them the role that citizen science has to play in painting a picture of how birds are faring over the winter.

‘While children today are increasingly disconnected with nature, here at RSPB Scotland we’re providing as many opportunities as we can for them to discover the wonderful wildlife in their neighbourhoods and beyond. Spending time in the outdoors is linked to improved physical and mental health and we also want children to enjoy finding out about nature and have fun while doing it.’

The Big Schools’ Birdwatch is the school version of the Big Garden Birdwatch – the world’s biggest garden wildlife survey aimed at families and individuals. The event will take place over three days on January 28-30 and further information can be found on the RSPB website rspb.org.uk/birdwatch

To register to take part in the 2017 RSPB Big Schools’ Birdwatch, visit rspb.org.uk/schoolswatch. Everything schools need to take part is available to download from the RSPB website.