It’s that time of year again – bird counting time for the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch 2016!
The Big Garden Birdwatch is an event we do every year in the Baby Routes household and one we all look forward to. For me as ever it also brings back happy memories – as you may recall my late Granny, who lived in a lovely rural spot in Wiltshire and took immense pleasure in spoiling her visiting menagerie of birds on every possible treat, was a keen participant. Every year whilst the rest of the family counted sparrows, the odd robin and a blackbird in the back-yard, she’d be totting up woodpeckers, rare winter visitors and all manner of more exotic garden bird! We used to tease her that she had been making them up but the truth is that as the result of hard work, lots of bird food, plenty of carefully positioned vegetation and bird boxes and a wonderful location her garden was a complete bird magnet. As I work each year to make our garden more bird friendly it brings back fond memories of her birding antics!
To take part in the Big Garden Birdwatch it doesn’t matter where you live, whether you have a big garden, live in town or even know anything about birds. All you need is to head outside (or inside with a good view) with your free pack from the RSPB and count the most number of birds at one time of each species in your garden or park over the course of an hour. It’s an activity suitable for all ages to take part and everything you need to know is available in the free pack that you can download on the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch website.
Why should you take part? Apart from being a fun, relaxing way to spend some family time on a weekend morning, the purpose of the Big Garden Birdwatch is to monitor trends in bird and wildlife (yes, you get to record your other non-winged visitors too) across the UK. By large numbers of the general public getting involved the study has so much more data available to analyse and across a much greater geographic area than would otherwise be possible. Last year 585,000 people took part. That’s a phenomenal amount of data when you think about it!
The 2015 results helped identify worrying trends in the continued decline of song thrush and starling numbers although there were good news stories for the little Jenny Wren with twice as many people spotting them than the previous year.
Being part of a massive scientific study is just one reason to take part in the Big Garden Bird Watch though. There are plenty of others that spring to mind, not least having a brilliant way to occupy the kids for an hour! They will quickly pick up the names of the common garden birds, hopefully triggering an awareness that will last a lifetime. It’s also a way of switching on to what’s happening in the natural world on your doorstop and running your own experiment in how bird numbers and species vary over the years where you live. It’s amazing what we miss in the hustle and bustle of our daily lives.
In our garden this year for instance I’ve seen far fewer birds, probably due to the mild winter. The ones I have seen are different to last year too. I have regular coal tits visiting – a species I’d not seen here before this winter. The long-tailed tits and jackdaws who mobbed our seeds and nuts in large numbers last year are conspicuous in their absence and even our regular blackbirds seem to have quite literally hopped off. Generally though, since the first winter we moved in when we hadn’t really put out a lot of bird food or done much to encourage birds in the garden, we now have a much larger number of regular visitors. It’s encouraging to see our hard work paying off.
Have fun with the Big Garden Bird Watch and let me know what you spot. I’m off down the road to leave a seed trail back to the garden and a few signs saying ‘birds this way’. Only joking. That would be cheating, wouldn’t it…?!
The Big Garden Birdwatch 2016 takes places between 30-31st January 2016 (you get to pick when over the weekend you do it). Schools can also take part until early February.
Visit the RSPB Big Garden Bird Watch for more information about events near you, to register, receive your free Big Garden Bird Watch pack and find out everything you need to know about taking part and making your garden bird and wildlife friendly.