Once again the Big Garden Birdwatch is upon us! Organised by the leading nature charity, the RSPB, it is an excellent opportunity to take some time out of your day to watch the wildlife visiting your garden.
What is the purpose of this bird count and what do I need to do to get involved?
What is the Big Garden Birdwatch?
The birdwatch has happened annually for 40 years and is it is a citizen science project on a huge scale. It allows the RSPB 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 if you don't have a garden – your local park, and make note of what types of birds you see during that time. You just need to record the most you see of any type 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 tend to visit the area for a second or third time.
This is for those with the largest of estates to the tiniest of urban gardens. Perhaps you only visited by the odd pigeon or maybe you have a multitude of winged visitors. Regardless, all this information is useful to the RSPB.
This year the birdwatch is happening on 26, 27 and 28 January. So find a chance during this time to see what is happening outside.
What happens to the results?
Half a million people are involved yearly with this birdwatch so it is an excellent opportunity to see how garden birds are faring across the UK. It enabled the RSPB to calculate the overall trend of species over time to see what is under-threat in our ecologically turbulent times.
After you have submitted your results to the RSPB and they have 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.
Stark long-term trends can be revealed by data collection over time. It can shine a light on human effects on wildlife such as habitat destruction and climate change.
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%!
In 2018, 420,489 people counted 6,764,475 birds. Below were the top 10 most counted birds.
Top 10 UK Birds in 2018
- House sparrow
- Blue tit
- Great tit
- Long-tailed tit
Attracting birds into your garden
It is 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 are not healthy choices for birds.
Do not 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 and check on their progress throughout the nesting season.