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House sparrows on a fence

Are you taking part in this weekend’s Big Garden Birdwatch?

Since the RSPB kicked-off its annual birdwatch in 1979, more than 137 million birds have been counted across the UK.

The Big Garden Birdwatch has a similar format to Bird Aware Solent’s Great Coastal Birdwatch. You just need to spend one hour counting how many of each species of bird you see land in your garden, on your balcony, or in your local park.

It’s a great activity for children to take part in, and can be a good way to introduce them to garden wildlife, to identifying species, and to taking part in citizen science surveys.

Last year, the top ten spotted species were:

  1. Sparrow
  2. Blue tit
  3. Starling
  4. Wood pigeon
  5. Blackbird
  6. Robin
  7. Goldfinch
  8. Great tit
  9. Magpie
  10. Chaffinch
Sparrow, blue tit, starling, wood pigeon
Blackbird, robin, goldfinch, great tit

Diary of a garden birdwatch

Here’s how Kate from the Bird Aware Solent team got on with her Big Garden Birdwatch this year:

“Despite the chilly day, I decided to venture outside for my garden birdwatch to get away from distractions inside the house. So, kitted out with woolly hat, thermos of tea and a hot water bottle, I settled down to see what would land in my (very small) garden in an hour.

“Straight away I spotted two blue tits and a goldfinch hopping around a tree, then a wood pigeon a little further up who seemed a constant presence during my birdwatching stint. All was quiet for some time, apart from some cheeky gulls flying overhead – although of course these weren’t added to my list as they didn’t land. Then a robin flitted between fence posts from one side of the garden to the other and a single blackbird completed the tally. Not a huge total but not bad for a tiny patch of garden in the city-centre.

“5 minutes later I’d submitted my results, where I was given a sneak peak into this year’s overall results so far: it looks like house sparrows are in the lead once again!”

Attracting birds to your garden

If you’re keen to entice more birds into your garden, providing fresh water and installing bird feeders is a great way to start. You’ll probably have to wait a while before the birds spot your feeder and regularly start to visit, but once they’ve learnt it’s there, it’s likely they’ll come back.

You might also think about putting up nest boxes or planting some bird friendly plants, such as trees or shrubs with berries.

If you don’t have a garden, how about trying a small window feeder to attract more birds?

Here’s some tips for feeding the birds on your patch:

  • Remember to clean your feeder regularly, ideally once a week. Disease is easily spread between birds when they gather and eat from the same bird table or feeders: according to the RSPB greenfinch numbers have dropped massively due to disease spread in this way.
  • When you’re choosing a feeder, think about how easy it’ll be to clean.
  • Keep bird feeders regularly topped up and locate it in a safe place where birds can spot any easy keep an eye out for danger.
  • Different styles of feeders with different foods increases your chances of attracting a wider range of birds.
Tits on a bird feeder