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Bird Aware meets citizen science

Running for nine days during December 2019, the 'Great Solent Birdwatch' was a citizen science themed event aimed at connecting people to our coastline by becoming a 'scientist' for an hour.

In a similar style to the RSPB's 'Big Garden Birdwatch', we asked people to visit their favourite spot on the Solent coast and record the number, species and location of the birds that they saw.

Participants got involved all over the Solent coast, from Hurst Spit, to the Isle of Wight and Chichester Harbour.  Even the rain, wind and very high tides did not deter them!   With the resources we created, such as a recording form and FAQs in hand, people spent a total of 38 hours on the coast collectively recording a whopping 8,797 individual birds of 72 different species.

The most numerous species was the brent goose, including flocks of 600 observed at Farlington Marshes and 500 spotted at Hayling Oysterbeds. The total count of brent geese alone was 2,136.  Teal were the second most numerous species recorded with 1,053 individuals and the dunlin was a close third at 1,033 individuals. Dunlin was one of 14 species of waders recorded including 10 bar-tailed godwit and 23 snipe. The most numerous waders recorded were oystercatchers with 465 individuals and redshank at 362 individuals.

There were also a few sightings of some rare and much-loved birds including: goldeneye, tufted duck, avocet, spoonbill, kingfisher, and even bittern. 

The photography competition that we ran alongside the main event proved to be a big hit with lots of budding photographers sending entries in.  Josh Thomas and Darryl Gorman won prizes with their captivating pictures of a little egret fishing and a sanderling sheltering from the wind. (Both pictures are featured above, click to enlarge).

Because of the success of the 2019 event we currently plan to run the 2nd 'Great Solent Birdwatch' this year.  Provisional dates set aside are Saturday 7th to Sunday 15th November 2020 - make sure you add them to your diary!

This 'first dip' into citizen science has given us a valuable snapshot of the amazing birds that use the Solent coast to feed and rest every winter.  It was a great chance for people to properly notice the birds whilst giving us a great opportunity to get our key messages across.  We are really encouraged more and more by the people we meet on the coast who are increasingly doing their bit to help the birds thrive.