5.8 million and counting – EuroBirdwatch 2016
By Gui-Xi Young, 2 Nov 2016
40 partner organisations, 1,070 events, 24,115 people and 5.8 million birds – welcome to EuroBirdwatch 2016.
You may have heard the old expression ‘it’s raining cats and dogs’ but what about ‘it’s raining blue tits and wagtails’? Well, there is a first time for everything – this year, news of EuroBirdwatch 2016 made it onto the weather forecast on Swiss national television. And while the weatherman didn’t actually forecast ‘light showers’ of starlings broken by ‘sunny spells’ of sparrows, he did make a very accurate prediction for the first weekend of October: birds, birds and more birds!
Since its launch in 1993, EuroBirdwatch has steadily become a beloved fixture on the annual BirdLife calendar. Every October, our national partners across Europe and Central Asia host hundreds of local birdwatching events open to all. Experienced birders, inquisitive newcomers, the young and old alike turn out in their droves to observe, identify and count passing birds during the natural event of the season – the great autumn migration where millions of birds make their epic journey southwards to wintering areas in the Mediterranean and in Africa. There really is something for everybody: fun activities designed for children, public bird ringing, ornithological excursions, and photo exhibitions. But the stars of the show are, of course, the birds: from barn swallows, dunlins, sand martins … to Cory’s shearwaters, great cormorants and many, many more.
This year’s spectacle of the skies certainly did not disappoint. The data, pooled by BirdLife Switzerland (this year’s coordinating partner) speaks for itself: 40 partner organisations, 1,070 events, 24,115 people and 5.8 million birds.
For those impressed by sheer numbers, the huge flocks of chaffinches and starlings observed in so many participating countries must surely stand out – 161,245 starlings in the Netherlands and 265,102 chaffinches in Lithuania alone. Meanwhile, those who delight in the thrill of a rare sight will no doubt appreciate Slovakia’s first registered sighting of the Radde’s Warbler (Phylloscopus schwarzi) – a brown and buff little passerine known for its vagrant wanderings from its Siberian breeding grounds.
The aim of EuroBirdwatch is not only to share the joy of birdwatching but also to educate by introducing wider audiences to the specific needs of migratory birds and the potential perils they face along their flyways twice a year. In light of this aim, special mention must go to Montenegro where young pupils from a local school in Podgorica painted nesting houses for peregrine falcons which will be redistributed around the whole country. Could this be a new generation of future birders, conservationists and ornithologists in the making?
For a full overview of the birds counted – country by country and species by species – visit the EuroBirdwatch 2016 website.