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House sparrows top RSPB Birdwatch survey
The house sparrow remains the UK’s most commonly-sighted bird.
Results show a mixed picture for UK’s garden birds

Recent results from the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch survey show the house sparrow remains the UK’s most commonly-sighted bird.

Figures released by the charity show there were some 1.2 million sightings of the bird throughout the survey weekend. But for many species, fewer birds were recorded than in 2018.

Held during the last weekend in January, the event shows there was a decrease in garden sightings of wrens and long-tailed tits. In 2019, long-tailed tits decreased by more than 27 per cent and wrens by 17 per cent.

RSPB believes populations of both species may have been affected by last year’s ‘Beast from the East’ but say it is still too early to say if this is a one-off or the start of a new trend.

The RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch is now in its 40th year and offers an opportunity for people of all ages to count the number of birds that visit their garden. This year, around half-a-million people across the UK took part in counting 7.5 million birds.

RSPB conservation scientist Daniel Hayhow said: “Over its long lifetime, the survey has shown the increasing good fortunes of birds such as the goldfinch and wood pigeon and the alarming declines of the house sparrow and starling. But there appears to be good news for one of these birds.

“While the overall decline in house sparrow numbers, reported by participants, since the Big Garden Birdwatch began is 56 per cent (1979–2019), in the most recent decade (2009-2019) numbers appear to have increased by 10 per cent. Giving us hope that at least a partial recovery may be happening.”

RSPB’s director of conservation added: “Our garden birds should be a part of our everyday life. For many people, they provide our only connection to the natural world and bring enormous joy. To have hundreds of thousands of people spend an hour watching the wildlife in their garden doesn’t only help us build up a picture of how our garden birds are doing, but people who take part feel better.”

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Dogs Trust announces winners of vet student awards

News Story 1
 Cambridge vet student James Jewkes has been awarded first place in the annual Dogs Trust EMS Awards, for his paper on the threat of exotic infectious diseases in rehoming centres. James will now go on a two-week placement at the WVS International Training Centre in South India.

Each year the awards allow vet students to gain hands-on experience during work placements at 13 of the charity’s rehoming centres, then submit reports on a relevant subject.  

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Former RCVS president to chair new Horse Welfare Board

Former RCVS president Barry Johnson has been appointed as the independent chair of a new Horse Welfare Board. Barry, who is also past chairman of World Horse Welfare, was selected by an industry panel including the British Horseracing Authority, the Racecourse Association and The Horsemen’s Group.

The welfare board aims to develop a new welfare strategy covering the whole racing industry. Mr Johnson said: “I’m very pleased to have been asked by racing to take on this role and by the sport’s commitment to continuous improvement in the welfare of racehorses."