MORE than 1300 Borderers took part in the recent RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch.

And they found that the house sparrow - for the fifth year in a row - is still on the region's top perch.

Now in its 38th year, over 35,000 people took part in the survey across Scotland and counted 626,184 birds - including some exciting visitors.

The event held over the last weekend in January revealed an explosion in the number of recorded sightings of waxwings.

These attractive looking birds are regular visitors to Scotland over winter, but every seven to eight years they flock here in much higher numbers when the berry crop fails in their native Scandinavia.

But the waxwings didn't gather in large enough numbers to make it into Scotland's garden top 20.

Heading the national list, as with the Scottish Borders, was the house sparrow (6.2 per garden) ahead of the starling (4.2) in second and the chaffinch (3.2) in third.

Keith Morton, species policy officer at RSPB Scotland. said: “The wildlife we see around where we live, such as a blackbird singing from a rooftop or a robin perched in a tree, is often one of the first experiences we have with nature.

"Having over 35,000 people in Scotland spend an hour taking part in the Big Garden Birdwatch is fantastic and an indication of how much people enjoy seeing the wildlife that lives around them.

"Using the results from the 626,184 birds counted allows us to create a snapshot of how our garden birds are doing now, and compared to previous years."

A total of 1355 Borderers watched their gardens during the count weekend.

As with the national picture they discovered blackbirds (3.3) as the fourth most common species.

The blue tit (2.8) held onto fifth place ahead of the wood pigeon (2.0) in sixth and the great tit (1.6) in seventh.

Making up the Scotland-wide top ten were the robin (1.6), goldfinch (1.6) and the coal tit (1.3).

Weather conditions leading up to the Birdwatch meant that this year Scottish gardens were treated to a range of different visitors.

Along with waxwings, there was also a jump in the number of visits from other migrant birds, such as redwing and fieldfare, as the sub-zero temperatures on the Continent forced them to go in search of milder conditions.

Keith added: "Conditions in Scandinavia in autumn and early winter led to suggestions that we could see a much higher influx of waxwings this year and the survey results indicate that this was the case.

"Waxwings are very striking, exotic-looking birds with prominent crests, bandit masks around their eyes and brightly-coloured waxy quills on their wings, the reason for their name. They do visit Scotland most winters but this year around 21 times more waxwings were seen than usually noted in the survey.

"They were also recorded in far higher number than usual across the rest of the UK and seen as far west as Wales and Northern Ireland.

"Their distinctive colouring and love for berries make them a great sight to see - something that more people will have been able to do this year.”

The accompanying RSPB Big Schools Birdwatch survey saw over 6,300 school children in Scotland spend an hour in nature counting birds. Blackbirds remained the most common playground visitor followed by carrion crows and starlings.

Big Garden Birdwatch and Big Schools’ Birdwatch are a part of the RSPB Giving Nature a Home campaign, aimed at tackling the house crisis facing the UK’s threatened wildlife.

The charity is asking people to provide a place for wildlife in their gardens out outdoor spaces – whether it’s putting up a nest box for birds, creating a pond for frogs or building a home for hedgehogs.

For more information about the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch results –