Good Causes

Getting to know feathered friends is great family fun

Nicola Bailey and her daughters need no introduction to the birds that gather in the garden of their home in the market town of Nuneaton.

Since taking part in their first RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch 5 years ago, Nicola, 11-year-old Rebecca and 6-year-old Sarah, have become experts at recognising visitors such as blue tits, robins, greenfinches and dunnocks, both by sight and by their song. Nicola said, “We have lots of Great tits in our garden, for example, and its sound is quite distinctive. It goes up, down, up, down.”

Taking part in the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch – an annual event that sees people across the UK spending an hour counting and identifying the birds – has triggered a transformation in the Bailey household. Five years ago, the family knew very little about their feathered friends; nowadays they can identify a wide variety and have done their best to encourage new visitors by installing bird boxes, bird baths and feeders.

Nicola said, “The girls have learned to use binoculars and they love making their own feeders by rolling fat-covered toilet rolls in bird seed. They really look forward to taking part in the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch and Rebecca encourages all her friends to get involved.”

The RSPB – an organisation supported with National Lottery funding – describes the Big Garden Birdwatch as the world’s largest garden wildlife survey. In 2021, more than 1 million people across the UK took part, counting a total of 17 million birds over a 3-day period.

This year’s Birdwatch will be held from 28-30th January 2022. To take part, all you have to do is spend an hour counting and identifying the birds that land in your garden, on your balcony or in your local park. The resulting data highlights the winners and losers in the garden bird world and gives the RSPB an astonishing insight into how our wildlife is faring.

House sparrows and starlings are the UK’s most commonly sighted birds. But RSPB data collected via the Birdwatch shows their numbers have dropped dramatically since the annual survey began in 1979. House sparrows are down 58 per cent, while starlings are down 83 per cent.

Beccy Speight, the RSPB’s chief executive said, “By taking part in the Birdwatch, you are helping to build an annual snapshot of how our birdlife is doing across the UK. It is only by us understanding how our wildlife is faring that we can protect it. We know that nature is in crisis but together, we can take action to solve the problems facing nature.”

Nicola couldn’t agree more. She said, “I think there have been less birds [in our garden] each year which isn’t good. I think the Birdwatch is really important and I’ve even got the poster in my window to encourage people to take part. If everyone does their bit it can make a huge difference.”

21st January 2022

Photo credits: Song thrush – Chris Gomersall; Blue tit – Ray Kennedy

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