PEOPLE in Helensburgh and Lomond are being called on to take part in the annual Big Garden Birdwatch in January.

By counting the birds visiting their gardens and submitting their results to the RSPB, residents provide valuable information on the status of our favourite birds, such as robins, blackbirds, sparrows and blue tits.

Starting in 1979 as an event for children on Blue Peter, the popularity of the Birdwatch has grown year-on-year and now 40 years later it is the world’s largest wildlife survey, with around half a million regularly taking part.

The RSPB says the total number of birds counted as part of the Big Garden Birdwatch since 1979, is more than 130 million.

In 2018, a staggering eight million birds were counted.

The RSPB says: “It’s an impressive amount of data, and the great thing about 40 years of the Big Garden Birdwatch is that we now have four decades of comparative results.

“The findings provide an important insight into how our wildlife is faring.

“It alerted us to the decline in song thrush numbers. Back in 1979 song thrushes comfortably occupied the number 10 spot, but numbers in gardens have declined by around 70 per cent over the last 40 years, and they have dropped to 27th in the rankings.”

The Birdwatch has also shone a light on the declines of house sparrows and starlings, although as we reported recently, house sparrow numbers are holding up in Scotland.

Changes in the climate would also seem to be having an impact.

Over recent decades, blackcaps have also been seen in increasing numbers in gardens in winter.

Although these birds are primarily summer visitors to the UK, changing temperatures mean some are now spending the milder winters in the UK rather than migrating further south in Europe.

Despite any differences across the years, it’s clear that what unites the Big Garden Birdwatch across time and among those taking part is the pure sense of excitement and joy that the Birdwatch brings, as well as the involvement in citizen science.

The 2019 Birdwatch will run from Saturday, January 26 to Monday, January 28, and it’s not just for birds – you can also submit sightings of any animals seen visiting your garden.

Sign-up by going to where you can request a free postal pack giving instructions on how to take part.