Make the most of the Big Garden Birdwatch
What is the Big Garden Birdwatch? The Big Garden Birdwatch is an annual citizen science project run by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB). It asks us all to spend one hour counting the birds in our garden, from your balcony, or in your local park in January.
Why? Well, the RSPB says that last year: "more than one million people took part in Big Garden Birdwatch, all coming together to look out for birds. Shockingly, we’ve lost 38 million birds from UK skies in the last 50 years, so it really is vital we do all we can to look after our birdlife. As a conservation charity, we depend on your support to save nature and to look after places where wildlife can thrive. By taking part in Big Garden Birdwatch, you can also make a difference. Wherever you are, whatever you see, it counts!"
Last year, more than 17 million birds were counted by those one million people, across the country. High on the list were blackbirds, blue, coal, great and long-tailed tits, robins, magpies and chaffinches. House sparrows and starlings are always spotted, but have hit the UK Red List so it's fantastic if you spot and count these.
How does it work?
It's very simple to take part. Between 28th and 30th January 2022, you need to spend one hour watching birds. That means you need to be able to allocate the whole hour, so pick a quiet moment that weekend when you won't be disturbed. You can watch through the window, or choose a spot in your garden where you're not too close to the birds and can stay still. If you don't have a garden, then you can watch from your balcony or visit your local park.
What you're looking to do is count the number of each species of bird which actually land in your garden or the patch of parkland or communal green space you're watching.
That means, if you see three robins, four blue tits and two house sparrows land on your lawn, feeders or bird baths, then you would write down each of these. But if you see a blackbird fly over your house, then you wouldn't count this. Once your hour is up, you then need to record your sightings online. You do this through the RSPB website. But you will need to sign up first and you can do that here.
How can I make the most of the Big Garden Birdwatch?
If you're taking part without children then we recommend making the most of this quite mindful moment. Watching the birds visiting your garden can be incredibly beneficial for your mental health. It's naturally a very calming thing to do, and brings huge rewards if you do manage to spot something and mark it down. Watching wildlife using and benefiting from your garden is very satisfying. If you plan to get your kids or grandchildren involved, then it may not be quite as relaxing, but will instead become very exciting. It's a chance to teach children about species identification. The RSPB will send you a free ID chart, or take a look at our Field Guide to Garden Birds from the Field Studies Council.
We suggest preparing yourself with a comfy, warm chair by a window. Or a comfy, cold chair outside with maybe a blanket over you! You could bring along some binoculars if you're in the park, or you have a larger garden. And maybe a nice warm drink and some homemade cookies! A pen and paper is useful, or use your phone to note down your sightings. You can put up a bird feeder or a bird bath to encourage more birds into your garden ahead of the count, and we've popped some suggestions below.
Dos and don'ts
You don't need to be a member of the RSPB to take part. Please do follow any Covid restrictions in place at the time if you plan to count somewhere public, or with a group of people. Only count those birds which actually land. You will need to sign up beforehand and be able to record your sightings afterwards online. You can find out more from the RSPB here.
Top Five Feeders for Birdwatching
Want to increase your chances of spotting the birds visiting your garden? Then one of the best ways of doing this is introducing a feeder to your garden. If you have a feeder, or a few different styles of feeder, available then you'll have more opportunities to spot garden birds as they land and pause for a moment to feed. We have a large selection of feeders, each of which is designed for different species of birds.
Our birding expert, Dan Rouse, says it's best to work out who might be visiting your garden first and provide a feeder suitable for that species. She says it's all down to the feet! "Generally the way I think about it is the feet! If a bird has flat feet then they don't have long enough claws to be able to hold on safely. So if you have a lot of blackbirds, robins, even chaffinches you need to have solid surfaces because their feet can't curl round enough. But then your little nimbly, climbing birds like coal tits, nuthatches, blue tits, they have got such strong feet that they can hold onto any feeding station. So if you are trying to tailor it to a certain species just have a look at their feet."
To watch from the window
The Dewdrop Window Feeder became incredibly popular during Lockdown with so many of us working from home. It's one of the best ways to get a really intimate, close up view of those birds visiting your garden. Our Window Feeders uses two strong suction pads to stick to the outside of your window but it's easy to quickly remove and clean every week or so, and then refill once dry. Alternatively you can use the hanging rope to hang from a tree or fence post, if you prefer.
For maximum vantage
The Giant Seed Feeder is one of our largest feeders, featuring eight feeding ports each with its own landing perch. This plastic-free feeder is an all-metal construction, which provides extra protection from squirrels and results in a long-lasting, durable feeder. It features an ingenious locking mechanism at the top to also deter squirrels, and a seed catch tray to stop feed landing on your lawn. This feeder is perfect for tits, nuthatches, black caps and other birds which like to hang onto a feeder.
For ground feeding birds
As Dan mentions above, garden birds like robins, blackbirds and dunnocks prefer to feed from the ground. If you have a lot of these visiting, then the Boxwell Ground Feeder would be better for you. Part of our Vintage Garden range, this versatile feeder and drinker can be quickly and easily moved around the garden. And can even be used to feed hedgehogs come the spring.
For a spot of colour
If you're fed up with looking out of your window to grey skies and a colourless garden, then our Petal Bird Feeders or new Sunflower Feeder are perfect for you. They can easily be pushed into the lawn or a border to provide a splash of colour during these greyer months and attract birds to feed from their shallow cups. There are small drainage holes in the bottom to stop water pooling, but we would advise cleaning them every few weeks to deter bacteria and diseases spreading between birds.
For the eco-conscious
With more and more of us thinking about the environmental impact of what we do, our Eco Beacon Bird Feeder is perfect as it's made in the UK from second life, recycled plastic. Its design is perfect for those garden birds which like to grip to a feeder, like blue and great tits and sparrows. The clever see through design means garden birds can easily see there is a healthy supply of feeder available.
Last but not least, you want to think about what you're going to feed to your garden birds. Most birds love pieces of cheddar cheese, raw apple, cooked rice and pasta, seeds and kibbled unsalted peanuts. But if you don't have any leftovers to give away, then our new range of Cotswold Granaries food is just the job. The nutritionally dense food is packaged in plastic-free, fully compostable packaging that you can simply throw onto your compost heap or into your food caddy. It's available in small bags to try out, or in larger bags for those that love to regularly feed their avian visitors.