The Big Garden Birdwatch is nearly upon us. Organised by the leading nature charity, the RSPB, it's a great excuse to take some time out of your day to watch the wildlife visiting your garden. So what do you need to do and what is the birdwatch for?
What is the Big Garden Birdwatch?
This event has been run by the RSPB for nearly 40 years and is a chance for them to gather huge amounts of data up-and-down the country to see how our garden wildlife is doing. All you need to do is to spend an hour at your window, or even your local park if you don't have a garden, and make note of what types of birds you see during that time. You just need to record the biggest number of species you see at any one time. Don't count up the total consecutive birds you see, otherwise, it is likely that you'll be double-counting birds as they visit for a second or third time.
From the biggest of rural grounds to the tiniest of urban garden that sees relatively few winged visitors, perhaps just the odd pigeon, all this information is still useful to the RSPB. Even if you see nothing during the hour it helps.
This year in 2018 the birdwatch is happening on 27, 28 and 29 January. So find a chance during this time to see what is happening out your windows.
What happens to the results?
Half a million people are involved yearly with this birdwatch so it's a brilliant opportunity to see how garden birds are faring across the whole country. It can help them to calculate the overall trend of species over time to see what is under-threat in this ecologically-challenged world.
After you've submitted your results to the RSPB and they've received and cleaned all the data, the number crunching begins! First, all the duplicates, anomalies and errors are removed in the data to ensure that it is scientifically valid. Then the data can be sorted in various ways including by geographical area. From this, populations of different species can be compared. An average number can be calculated of how abundant each species is. This is set in context against previous years' data to find out any long-term trends.
According to RSPB's pack for this year's Big Birdwatch, between 2007 and 2017 the biggest decrease in a species in the UK was the Greenfinch, which suffered a 66% decline. However, it is been a good period for the tiny Wren, which in this same period has seen a population increase of 87%!
Top 10 Bird in 2017
- House sparrow
- Blue tit
- Great tit
- Long tailed tit
Attracting birds into your garden
It's amazing how quickly garden birds find your garden when you leave out tasty foods for them. There is a variety of seeds, nuts and fat balls for birds that you can buy to put in a feeder to attract hungry birds in your garden. Make sure you place them out of the way of the garden's number one predator, the domestic cat.
You can also make use of your leftover kitchen scraps. Fruits, grated cheese, oats and sultanas are all big winners, for example. Avoid meats and processed foods as these aren't good for birds.
Don't forget that birds need to drink too, even in cold weather, so make sure there is a fresh supply of rainwater to keep them hydrated.
Of course, to fully invite our feathered friends into the garden you can mount a bird box. Do this before the breeding season when birds are looking for places to nest. You can use one of our bird box cameras to watch the resident birds without disturbing them.