January 31, 2011 / 4:47 PM / in 7 years

World's biggest garden bird survey awaits results

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - Record numbers of people took part in the world's biggest garden bird survey, Britain's Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) said on Monday.

The RSPB wildlife charity, which asked Britons to spend an hour counting and classifying the number of birds in their gardens over the weekend, said it had already received 100,000 forms back from the public for its 2011 Big Garden Birdwatch.

This year's survey could exceed the more than half million participants who took part in 2010.

"Once again people took part in the survey in their droves, proving what a popular activity it is," RSPB Big Garden Manager Richard Bashford said in a statement.

The RSPB is urging the hundreds of thousands of other people who took part and have not yet submitted their results to make sure they do so in the next two weeks.

"We really mean it when we say that every garden counts, and it doesn't matter if you saw 10 different bird species, one bird or none at all -- it's important that we know," he said.

Early results indicate that as well as the common garden birds like house sparrows and starlings, people saw a whole range of more unusual species on their tables and feeders.

They have already reported seeing species like dippers, goosanders, little egrets, snipe, cirl buntings and merlins.

First results have also shown dozens of waxwings in flocks and other winter migrants like redwings, fieldfares, blackcaps and mealy redpolls.

One lady even saw a white tailed eagle in her Scottish garden, the RSPB said.

Bashford said the survey -- in its 32nd year -- helps the RSPB identify trends in bird populations and first alerted conservation groups and others to a decline in house sparrows, song thrushes and starlings.

"These results can help shape the work we do, and the species and habitats we focus on," he said.

The results can be seen on the RSPB website www.rspb.org.uk/birdwatch

Reporting by Paul Casciato; Editing by Steve Addison

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