The countdown to the Big Garden Birdwatch is on! It’s now just three weeks until it’s time to sit down, perhaps in your favourite chair, and look out your window for just one hour, counting the birds in your garden.
So, how can you make the most of your Birdwatch? Just how are you going to attract charms of goldfinches, squadrons of starlings and tonnes of tits to your garden?
It’s all in the preparation
You’ve probably heard the phrase ‘failing to prepare is preparing to fail’? Well, that’s true for your garden too! And this weekend is the perfect time to start your Birdwatch preparation. It’ll give your birds time to get used to any new foods or feeders.
There are three steps in my mind:
First things first. Get out there and clean your feeders. Don’t be shy, give them a good brush. Take a look at our advice pages for more information on how and why to do this.
Now could also be the time to invest in any new feeders. Our shops have sales on now, so why not pick a brand new feeder when you stock up on your bird food?
Get it out there
So you’ve got your food. The birds love it: it’s tried and tested. Get it out there. I’m not saying that you need to have feeders off every branch and mealworms scattered everywhere, but make sure your feeders are topped up and the right food is out. If you’ve got peanuts, for example, lying uneaten in your feeder, ditch them. Now’s the time to try something else. Put food on a bird table too, or the ground, for birds like blackbirds and dunnocks that don’t traditionally hop up on the feeder.
And don’t forget water: birds need a drink too! It only needs an upturned dustbin lid (surely there’s one lying around now most people have wheelie bins!) or even a tray for your plant pots. Just fill with water, stick a couple of stones in it and, hey presto, you have a water supply.
Again, take a look at our website for all the info you’ll ever need on feeding your garden birds.
Now that you’ve cleaned your feeders, and put out your food, it’s time to sit back and relax. The birds will come. If you’ve only just started then it may take a while, but chances are that if you’ve put out the right food, in the right place, they’ll be there in three weekend’s time.
So, you see, preparation is the key. It really is that simple to enjoy a bumper birdwatch! Enjoy...
Share your tips
Why not share your tips? What foods do you put out and are there any special tricks you use to entice the birds into your garden?
Well, it’s finally here. The big weekend. You’ve done the preparation, you can only sit back and watch.
Which is exactly what we want you to do! For just one hour on either Saturday or Sunday please sit down, take a look out of the window and count the birds in your garden. Oh, and then submit your results, even if you don’t see anything. We still need to know.
For more information on how to take part see the Big Garden Birdwatch website. It’s so simple!
I’ll be taking part too, I wouldn’t dream of missing it! I’ve been doing the Birdwatch since I was fresh-faced youngster staring hopefully out of the patio doors, watching entranced as blue, great and coal tits flew to and fro on their own little missions.
Back then it was only for YOC (now Wildlife Explorers) members. I’m glad that in 2001 the powers that be allowed adults to take part too! Last year 609,177 people took part. Where you one of them?
They’re pretty simple, my tactics. But it’s my last Big Garden Birdwatch in this house, so I’d like it to be a good one.
I don’t have a garden, there’s a few plants to attract insects, ivy on the walls where blackbirds nest in spring and a tree across the courtyard. Hung there is a feeder. Or, as it’s known in my house, the ‘finch swing’, on account of the number of finches regularly seen on it! Green-, gold- and chaffinches are all regulars. The goldies appeared just after my Birdwatch hour last year, so I hope they’ll turn up during it this year.
Woodpigeons, collared doves, blackbirds and dunnocks skulk around underneath the feeder, hoovering up any seeds the messy-eating finches drop. I know it’s not a competition, but two years ago I scored a record 12 species. Star bird that year was a blackcap. More of these migrant warblers are spending their winters in the UK and with this year’s mild winter, perhaps we’ll see a few more this year.
So, I’ll be watching early(ish) on Saturday morning, with my trusty Birdwatch bacon sarnie. It’s all part of the tradition, it just wouldn’t be the same without my bacon sarnie! I’ll let you know what I see.
What are you hoping to see? Do you have any Birdwatch traditions? Let me know and share in the fun of the world’s largest wildlife survey.
With Big Garden Birdwatch coming soon, who wouldn't be delighted to have these visitors to their feeders?
If you're not familiar with them, they are tree sparrows. Numbers of these pretty birds plummeted by 95 per cent between 1970 and 1999, so we're working hard to give them a helping hand. You might be lucky enough to see them in your garden if you put out seed for the birds, though also keep an eye out for their close relatives, house sparrows.
Head over to RSPB Images to see lots more gorgeous photos like this one from Tony Hamblin.
I'm not going to lie - the Birdwatch can be a worrying time.What biscuits will I have with my cup of tea? Can I sit in my favourite chair and still see the garden? Will the birds know I'm watching them and not turn up?Ok, so I'm being silly about the first two, but every year we get people telling us that during their hour Birdwatch their usually bustling 'bird-opolis' of a garden is strangly empty.Now some of this is just bad timing. Not many people have the luxury to be able to stare out the window all day and see that actually there are quite a lot of periods of bird inactivity in their green space. This is perfectly normal - most birds wander over a wide area in search of food.However, some of it might be due to slightly less obvious reasons.Just as the cold weather of previous surveys brought a surge of birds flocking into gardens, so the incredibly mild weather of late could have the opposite affect. With the countryside not covered by frost and snow there have been plenty of berries and insects still available for our birds to eat.
It'll certainly be interesting to see what kinds of birds people are seeing this weekend, and in what numbers.Which is why no matter if you saw 20+ or no birds at all, we still really want your results. Happy Birdwatch everyone. And in case you're wondering, I'm rather partial to custard creams. Although ginger biscuits are always tasty. No, hang on, make that bourbons....
Would you dangle upside down to get a meal? It's all part of everyday life for a nuthatch - one of my favourite birds to watch. They're not afraid to hang upside down or run headfirst down tree trunks while looking for food. But then they have long, curved claws to help them hang on to the bark.
I wonder how many people saw nuthatches at the weekend as part of Big Garden Birdwatch? Send us your results and we'll be able to find out!
Visit RSPB Images to browse thousands of gorgeous photos like this one, taken by Steve Round.