Blackbird top of West Sussex class

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Students across West Sussex have been monitoring the attendance of feathered visitors to their schools in the RSPB’s Big Schools Birdwatch survey.

The blackbird came top of the class in 2012 for punctuality and attendance across West Sussex, with an average of 4.38 birds being accounted for in 83.0% of schools.

The blue tit came in a close second, with an average of 3.89 birds per school being registered in 83.0% of schools. The woodpigeon was the third most-spotted bird in 59.6% of schools, averaging a 3.57 attendance of birds per school.

Over 1300 school children and teachers from 33 schools stepped up for nature in West Sussex by counting birds in this annual survey during the last two weeks of January.

In the national leagues, the blackbird is at the top again, for the fourth year running. They eat invertebrates including worms and grubs, which they can find more easily in milder winter conditions and open playing fields in schools can provide a rich area of feeding for birds. The short-cropped grass is ideal for birds to find natural food supplies.

Nationally over 110,000 birds were counted in this year’s survey alone and since its launch ten years ago, more than 70 different species have been recorded in school grounds, ranging from starlings and house sparrows to kestrels.

National trends also saw the ‘red listed’ herring gull improving its attendance record, as 40.4% of schools reported seeing black headed gulls, 21.7% saw common gulls and 10.3% saw herring gulls.

Herring gull numbers reported in schools have been steadily increasing and this year reached the top 20 at no. 17 in the national league.

Faye Mackender, RSPB Big Schools’ Birdwatch project manager, said; “The Big Schools’ Birdwatch is a brilliant way of getting young people interested in nature and excited about what they can see through the classroom window.”

The benefits of contact with nature are now widely recognised as playing an important role in a child’s education and social development. Independent research has found that such activities can have a positive impact on children’s mental and physical health. [note 3]

Since its launch, the survey has grown in popularity and the RSPB has also introduced the Little Schools’ Birdwatch, especially designed for 5’s and under and the Really Big Schools’ Birdwatch for 11-14 year olds.