Countdown to major schools wildlife survey

The blackbird was last year's most popular bird

The blackbird was last year's most popular bird

Pupils across Sussex, along with the rest of the country, 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 and 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 100,000 pupils and teachers from schools all across the UK 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 school grounds, ranging from starlings and house sparrows, to red kites and green woodpeckers.

The blackbird remained the most common playground visitor in 2016 whilst starlings held onto the second spot. And for the first time wood pigeons made the top three, jumping up the list from sixth position the year before.

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.

Rebecca Kerfoot, RSPB Big Schools’ Birdwatch Co-ordinator said: “We hope the excitement and anticipation of their wildlife encounter during Big Schools’ Birdwatch will inspire children to get out and experience more of the natural world around them.

“With children becoming increasingly disconnected to nature, which is linked to poorer physical and mental health, we want to provide young people with as many opportunities as possible to enjoy and understand wildlife, and most importantly, have fun.

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 28, 29 and 30 January 2017 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.