40 years of the Big Garden Birdwatch
How to get involved in this year’s Big Garden Birdwatch
This January, the RSPB will be celebrating 40 years of the Big Garden Birdwatch. To mark the occasion, they are asking people of all ages to contribute with sightings.
The event originally started for children, with the RSPB joining forces with the BBC’s Blue Peter, who asked kids to contribute by letting them know what birds they spotted in their garden.
To this day the tradition continues and the findings from the Birdwatch project provide valuable insight into patterns in not only British birds, but wider wildlife. “You don’t need much to enjoy birds – just your eyes or ears,” says a spokesperson from the RSPB, “it can seem daunting, especially with so many bird species, but garden birds are a great way to start your birdwatching adventure. They are some of the easiest to identify and tend to hang around.”
If you’re keen to get the binoculars out and venture into your garden, birdfeeders and bird baths are the best way to attract birds in the first place. Different foods attract different birds and it’s recommended that people try a variety of seeds, grains and other foods to see what birds visit their garden.
Among the most common birds you can expect to see are porridge oat-loving orange-beaked blackbirds. The blue tit is less common but a spectacle to behold if you’re lucky enough. They love seeds, nuts and fat and are known for their feathers which are a colourful mix of blue, yellow, white and green. Budding bird watchers will be able to identify the chaffinch for its unique hopping dance that helps the bird look for seeds. If you’re living in south west London and Surrey areas, you may be able to spot the bright green flash of Himalayan parakeets who have interestingly made this part of the world home. These birds love fat and nuts on bird feeders and often exhibit vicious characteristics battling off squirrels in the competition for food. Woodpigeons are also common to our gardens, and are known for their round bodies and slightly clumsy yet endearing waddle.
Find out more about what bird you’ve spotted in your back garden by using the RSPB website has a handy bird identifier. This year, the RSPB are also asking people to tell them about any sightings of badgers, foxes, grey squirrels, red squirrels, muntjac deer, roe deer, frogs and toads.
If you’re keen to take your bird watching pastime further, there are plenty of local National Trust properties that are ideal outdoors spaces for discovering an array of species. Morden Hall Park exhibits a wealth of bird life on the banks of the Wandle and the boardwalk through the wetlands provides a perfect place for feathered friends to call home. London Wetland Centre in Barnes is another inner city oasis for birds, with sightings of kingfishers, black-tailed godwits, bitterns and hundreds of rare swans, ducks and geese.
Anyone can get involved by requesting a free postal pack or taking part in the survey online. You can also get free access to Big Garden Extra for exclusive articles, advice and celebrity interviews. The Big Garden Birdwatch takes place from 26th-28th January. Remember to tag #BigGardenBirdWatch on your snaps. More details and tips can be found on the RSPB website www.rspb.org.uk.