Clearly if you want to do an effective Birdwatch you’ve got to prepare, and this means that you’ve got to keep your feeders stocked up for at least a week, maybe two weeks, previously – I mean they ought to be stocked up throughout the course of the winter of course – because you want that consistency of birds coming in. You’re only going to do the Birdwatch for an hour, and you need to be honest about it. There’s no point putting on things that you saw last week or you saw yesterday or you see a bit later. To generate proper, quality data, do the job properly.
So yes, make sure your feeders are filled for days before, and then on the day you need to make sure that you’re within reach of the kettle, the teapot, the coffee, the hot chocolate, the muffins or the Danish pastries. And you have your notepaper, your mobile phone is turned off so you can’t be distracted, and the TV is of course very much off, and you just look at the birds for an hour.
And it speeds by! Every time I’ve done it, I think, “Oh no, I’ve only got five minutes left.” So, it’s quite an intense process. I suppose I’m fortunate I’ve got quite a busy feeder, but even if you haven’t – can I just say one thing that’s really important? Negative data is as important as positive data. We need to know what you don’t see as much as what you do see. That’s critical – and I fear that lots of people think, “Hmmm, I haven’t got enough birds, or I didn’t see anything in the hour, therefore I won’t report it.” Wrong! Tell us what you didn’t see, tell us how few things you saw – that’s critically important.