BLUE tits are spotted most often in Surrey’s gardens, followed closely by woodpigeons and house sparrows.

This has been revealed in the results of this year’s RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch – meaning there is no change at the top of the list of birds recorded in our county.

Yet nationally, for 20 years, house sparrows have held the top spot, followed by blue tits in second place, starlings in third and woodpigeons fourth.

The national result backs up my childhood recollection of house sparrows being the most common bird by far in our garden in Peterborough followed by blackbirds.

We never saw a woodpigeon without travelling into the countryside, but this year’s Big Garden Birdwatch reveals these birds are now the fourth most often spotted in gardens nationally. The results also show that in Surrey woodpigeons are the second most common garden birds.

More than half a million people across the UK took part in the Big Garden Birdwatch over a weekend in January, recording more than nine million birds. In Surrey, more than 14,000 people took part.

Now in its 44th year, the Birdwatch is the world’s largest garden wildlife survey and gives the RSPB insights into how our garden birds are faring.

While nearly 1.5 million house sparrows were spotted nationally, it is a drop of nearly 60 per cent since the survey began. Nearly 22 million house sparrows have been lost from the UK since 1966.

The RSPB’s chief executive, Beccy Speight said: “With so many people sending in their sightings from across the UK, Big Garden Birdwatch really helps paint a picture of how our garden birds are faring.

“While we celebrate the 20-year stint of the house sparrow at number one, the numbers speak for themselves when it comes to the startling declines of once-common birds. We’ve lost 38 million birds from our skies in the last 50 years.”

Birdwatch alerted the RSPB to the decline in song thrush numbers, which are still down 80 per cent compared with the first event in 1979. This species was a firm fixture in the top 10 in 1979 but, by 2009, its numbers were less than half those recorded 44 years ago. The song thrush came in at number 20 this year.

This year’s results have also highlighted the threats to garden birds, from weather changes to disease. The long-tailed tit, a much-loved species, rose five positions in the rankings this year, with numbers 39 per cent higher than in 2022. However, long-tailed tits are susceptible to harsh weather conditions, with the numbers recorded fluctuating since Birdwatch began.

Greenfinches and chaffinches have been badly affected by a disease known as trichomonosis, which can be spread by contaminated food and drinking water. The RSPB says garden owners can help by ensuring that feeders, bird tables and bird baths are regularly cleaned out and washed with a mild disinfectant and only filling up feeders with enough food to last up to two days.

If you see sick birds where you are feeding, stop feeding for at least two weeks and leave bird baths dry.