A SNAPSHOT of garden visitors to Dorset gardens has provided experts with a valuable insight into bird populations.

House sparrows, blue tits and blackbirds were the most popular visitors, according to results from the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch released today.

More than 7,000 people from Dorset took part in this year’s project, the largest survey of its kind in the world.

The survey is good news for the house sparrow, whose species appeared to be in decline. It remains the most commonly seen bird in our gardens but it remains on the RSPB ‘red list’ as 62 per cent have been lost since 1979.

Further down the list there were a few changes, with the wood-pigeon dropping from number four to number five, and the robin falling from number eight to number 10.

The continuing declines of some species are of greater concern, including starlings, which have dropped by an alarming 84 per cent since the Birdwatch began in 1979.

Tony Whitehead, from South West RSPB said: “This year was always going to be an interesting Big Garden Birdwatch as the winter has been so mild, and we wondered if it would have a significant impact on garden birds.

“They were out and about in the wider countryside finding natural food instead of taking up our hospitality. The good news is that this may mean we have more birds in our gardens in the coming breeding season because more survived the mild winter.”

RSPB conservation director Martin Harper added: “Two of the species that moved up the national rankings this year, blue tits and goldfinches, are adaptable, friendly garden birds and great examples of birds that can flourish with our help. If we put up a nestbox, leave out some food or let our gardens grow a bit wild they’ll be among the first to take advantage.”

This year, for the first time, participants were also asked to log some of the other wildlife they see. It will help to build an overall picture of how important gardens are for giving all types of wildlife a home.

This information will be analysed and results revealed next month.