LOCKED down nature lovers are being urged to take part in the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch this weekend.

Children and adults who don’t wish to venture out in the rain or are locked down indoors because of the Covid-19 pandemic are being encouraged to spend just one hour watching out for birds visiting their garden.

The aim is to collect data for a national survey showing how well birds are thriving – or declining – in the current environmental climate.

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds said: “You can choose any hour between January 29 and 31, so whether you’re an early bird or a night owl, you can still take part.

“Count the birds you see in your garden or from your balcony. Ignore any birds that are still in flight.

"To avoid double-counting, just record the highest number of each bird species you see at any one time – not a running total.

“This year our advice is to take part in the safety of your own home. This could include a birdwatch from your window if you overlook a green space or courtyard.”

Thanks to people taking part in the Big Garden Birdwatch, the RSPB has now collected more than 40 years of data and this has helped increase its understanding of the challenges faced by wildlife.

The RSPB added: “It was one of the first surveys to identify the decline of song thrushes in gardens.

"This species was a firm fixture in the top 10 in 1979. But by 2019, those numbers had declined by 76 per cent – coming in at number 20.

“Did you know that house sparrow sightings have dropped by 53 per cent since the first Birdwatch in 1979?

"However, in the past 10 years their numbers have grown by 10 per cent showing that we are beginning to see some signs of recovery.

“Results like these help us spot problems. But, more importantly, they are the first step towards putting things right.”

You can submit your results online at rspb.org.uk/birdwatch until February 19. If you’d rather send your results by post, you should do this before February 15.

Every count is important so, if you don’t see anything, please still submit your result. Finding out which birds don’t visit your area is as important as understanding those which do.

For more details on how to take part, go to www.rspb.org.uk

Please send photographs of any birds you spot to john.baker@newsquest.co.uk