Join the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch

26 January 2019

The RSPB is celebrating 40 years of its Big Garden Birdwatch, where amateur birdwatchers around the UK come together to share a snapshot of local wildlife. 

The number of birds in the UK are in decline, so the nationwide event is a great way for the RSPB to keep track of which British birds still appear in gardens around the country. We spoke to Simon, our Head of Product, to find out more about the annual event.

What is the Big Garden Birdwatch?

The RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch is the world's largest wildlife survey, with over half a million people from around the UK taking part every year. What started off as a campaign to get children interested in birdwatching has grown into a vital way to collect data about our British wildlife. 

The survey now carries the weight of four decades of data, and has enabled the RSPB to record the decline of birds like the song thrush, and to keep an eye on other garden wildlife, like hedgehogs. 

How can you register to take part in the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch 2019?

It's easy to take part in the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch:

  • Register on the RSPB website in time for the event, which takes place between 26-28 January. 
  • Spend an hour watching the birds in your garden, and record how many different types of birds you see. 
  • Head back over to the RSPB website to tell them your results by the closing date, 17 February.

When did you first start the Big Garden Birdwatch?

We’ve done the Big Garden Birdwatch as a family now for at least 15 years. I’m a bit of a bird nerd and I’ve been a keen birdwatcher for ages – much longer than I’d care to remember. 

Have you got anyone else involved?

I got my children into it from a young age, first with my daughter Maya, and now with Koa. We all love doing it because it’s something so simple and engaging – even in our own small garden you can see all kinds of birds and behaviours.  

Why is it a good idea to take part?

For me, the most important thing as a parent is that it helps to foster that interest in nature and create a spark for so much more.  Maya’s really got into nature and conservation, we’ve been on two of the organised hen harrier days and she’s now a qualified falconer – flying birds for a job. 

What's the most interesting thing you’ve spotted?

We’ve watched robins fight for territory, a jay use a bamboo hoop as vice for holding a hazelnut it was trying to break into, and woodpeckers feed young on our patio furniture. 

This year we were away at granddad's during garden watch weekend, but still managed to take part as he’s always had bird feeders in his garden. There’s a little starling roost which is guaranteed to give us at least a lot of them – 40 dropped in for breakfast!

What advice would you give to someone taking part for the first time?

Make sure your garden is bird friendly, but start off small. Try just adding one bird feeder to your garden – we did that with one that had mixed seeds in it and hung it in an apple tree that forms part of the boundary of our garden. Blue tits, chaffinches and greenfinches soon became regular visitors.

Over the years, we’ve added fat balls, peanut feeders and even harvested the apples (too many to cook with) and put those out throughout the winter. The number of species visiting has definitely grown – we have overwintering blackcaps as well as redwing and brambling that visit regularly.

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