Friday 28 January 2022

The Big Garden Birdwatch

My children love watching birds. There is something so satisfying about being able to name a bird you spot out on a walk or in your garden. I didn't know much about birds when I was growing up so I wasn't very good at identifying them at first, but I'm getting increasingly better as time goes on. There is nothing better than seeing the excitement on your child's face as they spot a bird in the garden and call you to come and take a look. Birdwatching is something both adults and children can enjoy together so it's great fun for the whole family!

For the last few years, we have enjoyed taking part in the Big Garden Birdwatch. This is an event organised by the RSPB. It has been running for 43 years and is the world's largest wildlife survey! In fact, last year, over a million people took part, many amateur birdwatchers, like ourselves. The survery has been able to provide an insight into the numbers of each species of birds that visit UK gardens over the last 40 years. It is fascinating to see how the populations of different birds has changed during this time. Taking part in the Birdwatch is a great way to be part of research and contribute to our knowledge on British birds.

How to take part in the Birdwatch

Get your Birdwatch checklist

We usually sign up for The Big Garden Birdwatch a few weeks before the event and we get sent a paper copy of the Birdwatch checklist in the post. If you didn't sign up in advance, you can still take part. Either print off a copy of the checklist from the Big Garden Birdwatch website, or make a note of the birds you spot yourself. 

Place bird feeders in your garden

We recently put some bird feeders up in the garden and were amazed to see the difference in the amount of birds which frequent our garden overnight! We have really enjoyed watching the variety of birds that come to our garden, through the kitchen window each day. There are lots of different things you can feed birds and different food will attract different species to your garden. That is why we chose to have a couple of different feeders in the garden; one filled with mealworms, one with bird seed and another with ready made birdfeed balls. It is important to remember that once you start feeding the birds, you should continue to do so as the birds become reliant on the food, particularly in the winter months when food is scarce.

Get some binoculars

Binoculars are a must for any birdwatcher. It is always great to get a closer look at any bird you spot. My children love to use them. We have a couple of cheap children's binoculars that they use as they wish, but I also have an adult pair that I help them to use to get a better look.

Have a bird book to hand 

We have a large variety of books on birds but we love this book by the RSPB. It is always nice to learn a little bit about the birds we spot, when we spot them. Get your child to really observe the colours of the feathers, the shape of the bird, the shape and colour of the beak and any other defining features. Perhaps read a little about its favourite types of food or nesting habits. Also, listen out for any noises it makes and see if you can use its song to identify it in the future. We particularly like the board book below that has buttons you can press for each birdsong.

Put on some warm clothing

As it's winter, it's a good idea to wrap up warm. This will make it more comfortable for you to be outdoors for the hour you take part in the birdwatch. A warm coat, woolly hat, scarf and gloves are all essential if temperatures are freezing. You may need to wear thermals too if it's really cold.  

Get snacks and a hot drink ready

If your children are anything like mine, they will always be hungry! Having some snacks prepared helps to keep everyone focused on the task at hand rather than wandering in and out of the house to get things to eat. I also like to have hot drinks prepared to keep us warm as we watch and wait.

The Big Garden Birdwatch is something we look forward to each year. Once you've completed your hour birdwatching in your garden, go to The Big Garden Birdwatch website to log your results. Have you ever taken part in the Birdwatch? Are you planning to take part this year?

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