THE world’s biggest wildlife survey returns this coming weekend and Dorset residents are being urged to count their feathered friends.

Big Garden Birdwatch, organised by the RSPB, takes place over the weekend of January 24 and 25.

Last year around half a million people across the UK took part and between them counted more than seven million birds.

Across Dorset the house sparrow hit the top spot again, followed by the blue tit, blackbird and starling.

Now in its 36th year, the wildlife survey provides the RSPB with an important snapshot of garden bird populations in winter and has helped highlight some dramatic declines in species.

Everyone can join in by spending just an hour over the weekend noting the highest number of bird species in their garden or local park at one time and submitting their results to the RSPB.

“No matter where people take part, whether at home with the family, with classmates at school or with friends in a local park, we’re joining forces to gather vital information about some of our most familiar garden birds,” said Tony Whitehead, spokesman for the south west.

“It’s a great way to get to know the creatures that live around us, and that’s especially important for children. Garden birds can often be a child’s first encounter with wildlife and can spark a lifelong interest in nature.”

For the second year running, the wildlife charity is asking participants to log any other wildlife they see, to help build an overall picture of how important gardens are for giving nature a home.

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Last year's Dorset results

1. HOUSE sparrow – average of 3.774 seen in 55.45 per cent of gardens
2. Blue tit – 2.018 in 69.57 per cent
3. Blackbird – 1.996 in 81.07 per cent
4. Starling – 1.941 in 29.59 per cent
5. Woodpigeon – 1.621 in 65.90 per cent
6. Goldfinch – 1.448 in 28.77 per cent
7. Chaffinch – 1.418 in 41.56 per cent
8. Robin – 1.150 in 75.04 per cent
9. Great tit – 1.139 in 51.23 per cent
10. Long tailed tit – 0.905 in 21.87 per cent.
(Results via RSPB.)