It’s chilly outside and the bird feeders are busier than ever. That must mean one thing – it’s time for the Big Garden Bird Watch again!
Every year the RSPB coordinates a community effort to survey which feathered visitors are visiting our gardens and to track trends in growth or decline of population numbers since 1979. During the winter months when food is scarce elsewhere, more birds than ever flock to our gardens to make the most of food left out for them and so it is easier to count them than at other times over the year. Getting an idea of bird numbers helps to keep an eye on the overall health of the countryside as well as giving clues to more species specific trends and the more people who take part, the better the picture it gives nationwide.
If you’ve not taken part before then there’s not a lot you need to know – it’s easy! You just need one hour free over the weekend of the 24th and 25th January 2015 to watch your garden or to nip out to your nearest park or green space. Grab a cup of tea, something to record your results on and an id chart/book in case of any unusual visitors and get counting! You can register over at the RSPB Big Garden Bird Count website, find out the full details and download a guide to some of the most common birds you might see. It’s not just birds either – RSPB would like to know about other visiting wildlife to your garden!
This is a lovely activity to do with children too, particularly on dull January days when watching out the window might well be an activity of choice, birds or no birds! Roo is excited to help me this year and is fully kitted out with her bird book and Christmas binoculars this year which of course are totally necessary to spot that humungous wood pigeon balancing on the bird bath less than ten meters away. You could also make your own bird guide by cutting out pictures of the most common birds and sticking them onto paper with a few facts about them you can look up together or just do some birdy arts and crafts by painting birds or using feathers, twigs and leaves to make a bird collage. There’s a good use for all those Robin Christmas cards about to go in the recycling! Roo and I will also be getting out her favourite Birds at the Bottom of the Garden story book at story time to brush up on her bird names in time for the count. If you’re in need of more ideas then the RSPB will send you out a free family activity information pack when you register online – I’ve just sent off for our one this morning!
The bird count always reminds me of my late Grandparents who were great bird watching enthusiasts and took part faithfully every year. Granny always seemed to get an amazing variety of exciting birds in her garden during the count which always made us tease her about the integrity with which she conducted her count! Looking back there was no real surprise at the variety of birds she had in her garden – she was out on the edge of fields with lots of natural cover in the garden and my grandparent’s garden was quite possibly the best stocked bird cafe in the neighbourhood.
Taking a leaf out of her book, if you want to encourage the birds to your garden then now is the time to get those feeders clean and well stocked up. I have just put up a second bird table and a new squirrel proof feeder. Roo and I will also be making some more bird pudding later in the week – the pre-Christmas supplies have been pretty much exhausted by our hungry birds!
Happy bird spotting and don’t forget to register for the Big Garden Bird Watch over on the RSPB site.