In the UK, citizens take part in the world’s largest collection of bird information

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A bird glides across a lake in a London park, Tuesday, January 17, 2023.

From Friday 27 to Sunday 29 January, hundreds of thousands of Britons were invited to spend an hour on their balcony, in their garden or in their municipal park, to count the birds there. This annual meeting, the “Big Garden Birdwatch”, was launched forty-four years ago by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), a true British institution, one of the most important NGOs for the protection of the nature in Europe, and one of the oldest – it was founded in 1889. “This is the largest citizen collection of bird information in the world,” welcomes its general manager, Rebecca Speight. The initiative aims to paint an up-to-date picture of feathered wildlife in the UK, raise awareness of the surrounding nature and recruit new members for an NGO which already has 1.2 million.

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“Anyone can participate, no need to be an expert, all you need is a pair of binoculars, you can find really cheap ones”, adds ex-National Trust official, a British institution for the preservation of sites and monuments. “At this season, we can observe an abundance of wood pigeons or great tits, these populations are doing very well even in urban areas, but also song thrushes, even if they have decreased a lot, or black-capped warblers, redwings or fieldfares, from Scandinavia. If the weather is really cold, enticing birds to approach the gardens, you may even be able to see waxwings, an absolutely magnificent species of passerine bird,” enumerate Mme Speight.

Bird watching.

In 2022, 700,000 Britons took part in the Big Garden Birdwatch. In 2020, at the heart of the first confinement, at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, a million people took part, a record. Many Britons then discovered a passion for birds and nature, recognizing the importance of the connection with nature for their mental health. Young ornithologists share their passion on social networks, like the naturalist Mya-Rose Craig, author of the blog Birdgirl, or encourage citizens from ethnic minorities to arm themselves with binoculars, like the Black2Nature or Flock Together associations. “The defenders of biodiversity were more of a white, middle-class origin. It is crucial that all audiences join the movement, it is one of our priorities”, insists Mme Speight.

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“A leading indicator of the state of nature”

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