THE latest results from the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch have revealed a golden year for the goldfinch – along with a number of other small birds – after a surge in sightings in gardens across the region.

More than 420,000 people across the country took part in the conservation charity’s Big Garden Birdwatch, including more than 3,400 people in County Durham, recording 6.7 million birds visiting their gardens or local park.

The event, held over the last weekend in January, revealed an increase in sightings of smaller birds, such as goldfinches, chaffinches and coal tits.

In County Durham, recorded sightings of the finch rose by 14 per cent on 2017 figures. Other small birds that are thought to have benefited from the mild January weather include the tree sparrow up 24 per cent, coal tits up two per cent, and chaffinches up five per cent.

It also proved to be a good year for the greenfinch after a seven per cent rise in numbers seen, a welcome sign for a species that has undergone a 60 per cent decline in sightings since the first survey in 1979.

But the survey also highlighted a dip in the number of recorded sightings of blackbirds (down 16 per cent), robins (down 10 per cent) and wrens (down six per cent) on last year’s figures for County Durham. 

In the Tees Valley, almost 4,000 households took part in the survey. Sightings for the long-tailed tit were up 18 per cent and coal tits up six per cent on 2017’s figures, but blackbird sightings were down 17 per cent, robin sightings were down 15 per cent and wrens down two per cent. 

More than 4,300 households in Tyne and Wear took part in the count and results also showed that sightings of goldfinches rose by eight per cent on 2017 figures. Chaffinch numbers were up four per cent and coal tits up 15 per cent. 

Daniel Hayhow, RSPB Conservation Scientist, said: “Last summer was a really good year for many breeding birds with warm weather creating great conditions for many smaller birds to raise their young to adulthood. The rise in sightings of goldfinches and coal tits, along with chaffinches and greenfinches nationally, goes to show that in the absence of cold weather they can survive the winter months in good numbers.”

The house sparrow remained at the top of the Big Garden Birdwatch rankings as the most commonly seen garden birds.