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Big Garden Birdwatch: Lockdown Edition

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By Olly Rose
Jan 27, 2021

Every year, over 500,000 people from all over Britain take part in the Big Garden Birdwatch. It’s the RSPB’s annual snapshot of local wildlife and a brilliant excuse to spend an hour watching the birds wherever you are.

This year, the annual event is taking place 29-30 January. It’s a lot of fun and helps the RSPB keep track of bird populations across the country.

This is an essential task – birds have been declining in numbers a long time and we now have over 40 years of survey data showing what the climate crisis and other human actions are doing to native species like the song thrush. In 1979, they appeared in the top 10 most commonly seen birds, but by 2019 their numbers had declined by 76%.

Simon Pickering, Ecotricity’s Principal Ecologist, heads to the RSPB Nagshead Reserve to talk about the Big Garden Bird Watch

The Big Garden Birdwatch is important but it’s also enjoyable and educational, particularly if you’ve got lockdown kids to keep entertained. In fact, it started off as a campaign to get children interested in birdwatching – fast forward four decades and it’s the world’s largest wildlife survey!

How can I take part in the Big Garden Birdwatch 2021?

Taking part couldn’t be easier. Just go to the RSPB’s site and request a pack – you can do it all online so it’s really straightforward.

Things are a little different this year owing to the Covid-19 lockdown. In previous years, the RSPB would recommend taking part in your back garden, local park or a nearby piece of green land depending on what you have available to you.

This year, to be safe, they suggest sticking to your own home. If you don’t have a garden, you could watch from a window overlooking a green space or courtyard, or even attach a birdfeeder to your window and see who comes by.

The actual bird watch is simple and a great way to involve children in an important study. You can pick any time of the day, although you’ll see more if it’s daylight! Just pick a spot with a good view of your garden or green space and spend an hour enjoying the birds and noting which ones you spot.

The pack has lots of resources to help you with different types of birds, so it’s not a problem if you’re not a committed ornithologist. You then have until 19 February to register the number of birds you saw with the RSPB using their easy online system.

Ecotricity staff took a walk near our office in Stroud to see which birds they could spot

What has the Big Garden Birdwatch shown us?

Over the years, the Big Garden Birdwatch has helped improve our understanding of the challenges faced by wildlife throughout Britain. Only by knowing about these problems can we start to address them.

For instance, house sparrow sightings have dropped by 53% since the first Birdwatch in 1979 – but the population has recovered a little in recent years, which is a positive sign for that particular species.

However, other studies show that Britain has lost over 16% of all wildlife since the 1970s, with insects and other invertebrate numbers dropping by a staggering 65%. A number of factors have contributed to this crisis: widespread loss of habitat through changes in farming, urban development, and – of course – the climate crisis, which is already disrupting nesting times and breeding areas, as well as food chains.

How can I help to boost wildlife numbers?

There are two quick and effective ways to help increase bird numbers in your local area.

The first way is to put a bird feeder out if you have the space. Put it somewhere quiet and safe from neighbourhood cats – and add a water bowl if you can. Keep it all clean and make sure you put out the right food. If you’re not sure, we recommend the RSPB’s brilliant web page on the best food to feed birds.

The second way to help birds and other wildlife recover is to fight the climate crisis by switching to 100% green energy with Ecotricity. We’re Britain’s greenest energy supplier and official partners with the RSPB because we share the same values and goals: fighting the climate crisis, protecting wildlife and safeguarding habitats.

If you switch your electricity and gas to us, we’ll give a donation of £50 to the RSPB, for each year that you’re on supply with them, to help their vital work. (£25 per fuel.)

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