Get ready for Big Garden Birdwatch 2022

Guide
A blue tit perched on a garden fork

10 million hours! That’s the estimated time that members of the public have spent counting garden birds since the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch first launched in 1979, with over a million taking part in 2021, making it the world’s largest wildlife survey. On the last weekend in January each year, the RSPB asks people to spend just an hour counting the wild visitors to your garden or local park to help give the charity a snapshot of how our wildlife is faring. From that, we can spot the winners (and cheer!) and the losers (and focus our efforts on trying to do something to save them).

A blue tit perched on a garden fork

RSPB wildlife gardening expert Adrian Thomas shares his tips for ensuring that your garden or outside space is fluttering with feathered friends ready for your Big Garden Birdwatch count in January.

Anyone can take part and you don’t need any special equipment- although you may find a slice of cake and cup of tea helps you focus!

For more details on how to take part visit www.rspb.org.uk/birdwatch.

Mmmm – food!

Encouraging birds into your garden is simple – give them a bit of extra food to top up their natural diet. Our feathered visitors come in all shapes and sizes, and each have their own favourite foods. Nyjer seeds are rich in fat and loved by goldfinches; house sparrows like sunflower hearts; and mealworms are a favourite of many birds in spring when busy parents are looking for insects to feed their chicks. You can also feed kitchen scraps, but avoid using salted, mouldy or greasy foods. Remember to buy good quality feeders and keep them clean to prevent the spread of disease – we recommend cleaning feeders and bird tables once a week, especially because of disease affecting greenfinches and chaffinches.

Here you can find advice on bird feeding, what foods to provide, and how to keep everything hygienic.

Extra mmmm – drinkies!

Adding water to your garden is one of the best ways to help birds. Even a birdbath or a small pond will do the trick. You can create a simple birdbath by turning an old stainless steel dustbin lid upside down and resting it on some bricks – that creates the shallow ‘puddle’ that birds require. Deeper than that and they feel out of their depth, literally!

Remember that birdbaths need cleaning frequently, too, to prevent bird diseases spreading. An old washing up bowl can also act as a mini pond, but you’ll need to create a shallow beach if birds are to use it to drink and bathe, and to help animals climb in and out.

Plant trees and shrubs

Planting trees and shrubs is one of the best things you can do for nature in your garden. Planting one now may not be in time to help your birds in 2022, but it will come into its own in 2023 and for, well, in some cases for hundreds of years after that.

It’s good to think about providing a range of different trees, shrubs and plants with different structures if you have the space – but if all you have is a balcony, then a shrub in a pot is still possible. An ideal choice is a fruit tree which will blossom in the spring and then have fruit or berries in summer and autumn, offering a rich source of food for birds year-round. You can find one to suit every size of garden.

Give birds a bed for the night 

No wildlife-friendly garden is complete without at least one nestbox. Even if you don’t have a garden, a nestbox attached to the wall of your house could be the perfect place for hole-nesting birds to set up home, providing a safe place for them to raise a family. However, it can also offer a snug sleepover in winter, so don’t delay, put up their accommodation today. Then, alongside the food, you really will have provided the full B&B.