Who’s up for a game of ‘Spot the Birdie’? If you are, you’ve picked a great time of year! The Big Garden Birdwatch is almost upon us again, so read on to prepare for the world’s largest garden wildlife survey.
What it is and how it works
The annual event is run by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), and happens on the last weekend of January. You can take part wherever you are in the UK by registering here. All you have to do is choose an hour between the 26th and 28th of January and count the birds you see in your garden. (You can watch from your balcony or go to your local park too.)
Make a note of the birds you see, and the highest number of each type you observe at any one time. If a thousand starlings descend on your garden, and twenty minutes later you see another two, only count the thousand. (Also, a thousand starlings? You must have an enormous garden!)
Once you’re all finished, submit your results online by the 18th of February, or post them to reach the RSPB by the 13th of February.
What you’ll need
The main thing you need is a way to jot down which birdies have come to visit. Make sure you’ve got a pen and paper handy when you start, or you could use your phone. Just don’t get too distracted by it if you’re keeping track electronically! What if that clickbait makes you miss seeing a phoenix?
A pair of binoculars can be useful if you’re viewing a large space. They’ll also make you feel properly ‘birdwatchy’, which is never a bad thing in our books.
Recognising the birds you see is more than a tiny bit useful. Grab your favourite bird identification book, or download the RSPB’s free guide from their FAQs page.
Getting comfortable while you’re enjoying nature is also nice. Wrap up nice and warm if you’re venturing outside. If you’re staying in, it’s essential – essential, we say! – that you have somewhere nice to sit, and a suitably wonderful hot drink next to you.
How to attract birds
The Big Garden Birdwatch is most pleasant when you actually get to see some birds. (It’s not a prerequisite though. The RSPB still wants to know if you were bored by birdlessness.) You can let your feathered friends know they’re welcome by providing suitable food and water sources. Click here for advice about what different types of birds like.
Providing safe food for your visitors is a must. Here’s a post about what you should and shouldn’t put out for them to eat.
It’s also important to let the birdies do their thing without disturbing them. If you’re desperate to go outside – and your toes don’t mind getting chilly as much as ours do – staying nice and still is key. However, we recommend watching from a window or using a high-quality wildlife camera instead.
Some ideas to enhance your birdwatching experience
If it were up to us, we’d be glued to our bird cameras 24/7. (Figuratively these days. We tried literally, but it was too hard to shower properly.) However, we know some people like to watch wildlife in smaller bursts. An hour can feel like a big chunk of time if you’re not used to observing wildlife for more than a few minutes in one go. Here are a couple of ideas to help you get the most out of the experience.
Listen to music
Once you’re comfy – don’t forget your wonderful hot drink of choice – load up some suitably relaxing music to help you enjoy the time. We recommend listening to ‘The Birdie Song’ on repeat, but we suppose that’s not to absolutely everyone’s taste. Some nice ambient orchestral music might be a better way to set the mood for one or two of you, we suppose.
One of our favourite things about The Big Garden Birdwatch (other than the birds) is the sense of community the event creates. More than half a million people got involved across the UK in 2023. There are plenty of ways for you to interact with others keen to enjoy nature over the weekend.
If you know anyone else who’s participating, you could agree a date and time to do it together and then compare stats afterwards. You could even meet up and have a birdwatching bash. Just keep in mind that the RSPB asks for only one set of results if a group of you take part from the same location.
You could also take to your social media platform of choice to share your experiences and see who else is doing the count. (We’re a bit X-asperated that we can’t tell you to Tweet about your birdwatching these days, but them’s the breaks.)
You could even livestream your hour if you’re particularly tech savvy. Any twitchers here on Twitch? Let us know!
Sign up and enjoy
We hope we’ve whetted your appetite for this wonderful event. Click here to find out more, then RSVP to the RSPB so you can join in on the fun.