Wildlife & Nature to See in January : Big Garden Birdwatch

Wildlife to See in January : Big Garden Birdwatch

© Laurie Campbell: Garden favourite - Robin.

© Laurie Campbell: Garden favourite – Robin.

Ok, so technically it’s not a species I’m writing about… but the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch is an important date in the wildlife year.

The idea behind the event is that you spend an hour (any hour over that weekend) watching your garden or local park, keeping a tally of any birds you see. What could be simpler? I tell you what – picking up a leaflet that lists the most common species, with pictures to help identification, or using their online bird identifier. They really are too good to you people.

To make the event more fun, set up a bird feeder filled with peanuts, mealworms or seed, and attract as many species as possible (however remember to keep your feeder topped up afterwards, with an occasional rinse out of old feed.) Berry bushes and ivy covered walls also make attractive prospects for birds.

So you’re sat by the window with a cup of tea and a pen – what do you need to know? Firstly, they only want details of birds that actually land, not those flying overhead. Secondly, record the highest number of a species seen at any one time, rather than over the course of the hour, to avoid counting the same birds repeatedly. Finally, should you see little, or nothing at all, the RSPB still wants your results, as they may be reflective of certain species in decline. So remember to send your numbers to:

FREEPOST RRSX-YHAU-AJTB
The RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch
Halifax Road
Melksham
SN12 6YY

Or fill out the online form at https://www.rspb.org.uk/get-involved/activities/birdwatch/. To celebrate the birdwatch, the RSPB is organising numerous group events around the country, details of which can be found on their website.

The Big Garden Birdwatch had been going for over 40 years, and has provided some fascinating statistics since it started. 3 million hours of data have been gathered, providing some sad news about the rapid decline of British birds. Reading like a music chart’s top twenty, I can reveal that house sparrows have enjoyed being top of the charts for six years running (despite halving in overall numbers), but face competition from abundant starlings and blackbirds. My attic seems to fit this trend, providing a home – via a small gap in the guttering – to families of sparrows and starlings. It gets pretty noisy up there come spring. Other big names on the garden bird list include (bain of my father’s life) the woodpigeon, magpies, charismatic long-tailed tits and December’s featured bird, the robin.

January is a great time for bird watching, as the sparse foliage and occasional snow fall makes spotting and identifying birds that much easier. In an hour spent at my window this week with a pair of pretty awful binoculars, I was lucky enough to see redwings roosting in an ivy-covered tree, a preening kingfisher and a handsome great spotted woodpecker – not to mention flocks of coal and long tailed tits.

The RSPB is constantly organising large-scale events, for which the smallest actions (signing a petition, an hour of bird watching) can add up to a valuable contribution for wildlife conservation. Yours truly is such a fan of the charity that I write copy for them, as well as being a member. Why not join up and visit some outstanding reserves in the new year? That really is a resolution worth sticking to.

Article by Lizzy Dening You can follow Lizzy on Twitter or go to her website