Big Garden Birdwatch 2023
The Big Garden Birdwatch, an RSPB-led initiative to track the distribution and population of our bird numbers, is UK’s biggest piece of wildlife citizen science and took place last weekend. Twitchers were asked to tot up how many birds and of what species they spotted over a one hour period. The initiative began in 1979 as a feature on the children’s TV show “Blue Peter”, but has grown enormously in popularity since. Last year, 700,000 people across the UK took part and collectively counted more than 11 million birds. Will Tingle and our own appropriately named James Tytko have joined in too!
Will - And a lot of people now are migrating towards cities, more urban areas where perhaps there's less bird life than out in the country. What do you say to the people that live in urban areas that might think there's no reason to participate?
Richard - The thing with the birdwatch, you don't need a garden to take part. I mean, you can do it in a park, you can do it in a green space from your balcony. I was down at my local canal yesterday, so you don't need to be in the countryside or have a large garden to take part. And all the data's helpful to us. Even if you don't see anything during your hour, put together with everybody else's results it helps us to get a really good snapshot.
Will - There we go. We're kicking off strong. Got a couple of blue tits there.
James - Where? Oh yeah, I see him now.
Will - Lovely. A stallwart of the garden watch survey. Oh, it's a black bird. A black bird, James. We're kicking it up a notch. Very exciting. Two black birds. Three. I don't know about you, but my heart is going again. I'm hearing a lot. I'm not seeing a lot.
James - Oh, I can, I can see it on the tree. Well over there. Yes.
Will - That counts, right?
James - Well, come on.
Will - I see it. We'll take it. Oh, is that a wren? It is. I cannot believe this. James has just gone inside and there's a buzzard.
Will - Are there any other things that people can do with their gardens to improve the quality of their birds and their bird populations?
Richard - There are lots of simple things you can do if you have a garden yourself from putting some bird food out, feeding stations, and water as well. Important to remember that cleaning and hygiene is really important. So if you are feeding birds, then make sure that the feeders are cleaned regularly and there's fresh water going out daily and that helps stop the spread of diseases that we know can impact some species. Also, leaving scrubby areas in your garden is great for the nesting, roosting and giving birds shelter and cover from the weather as well. Things like leaving your grass a bit longer in some places - really good for insects, which are a source of food for birds as well, not using insecticides and things like wildlife friendly planting. These are all simple things you can do and can make a real benefit for the birds and bring more nature into your garden as well.
Richard - Another thing is that the birdwatch is good for us as well as for wildlife. Getting out into nature and connecting with the nature on your doorstep is really good for mental health and wellbeing. We did a YouGov survey as part of this year's birdwatch, and it showed that from the people we asked, 9 out of 10 people agreed that listening to birdsong, going out and watching birds, benefited their mental health and wellbeing. So really positive impacts for people to get out there and enjoy the nature that's on the doorstep.
Will - Do you feel any less stressed at the moment right now, James?
James - Yeah, I'd say so. It's nice to take a break. I mean, I'm a big believer anyway in getting out in nature if you're feeling a bit low, so absolutely happy to be here.
Will - Well, we end today on three blue tits, three jackdaws, three blackbirds, a buzzard, a wren, and a robin. It's not quite the goldfinches and bluefinches that we've seen here in days gone by, but not bad. Not bad for an hour in January. So how do you think today went?
James - I was delighted actually with our haul. About four or five different species. I'm well happy with that.
Will - Good. And I hope everyone had equal success or equal happiness at their success when they did theirs at home.
Richard - One of the great things about the big garden bird watches is that it's for everybody. You don't need to be a bird expert to take part, but it can be a great introduction to the species that are there that you might perhaps not notice until you sit down for an hour and just start to look around you. And the more that you do it and get out in nature and start to appreciate what is there, the greater the connection is and just being out in the fresh air, taking notice of what's around you, it has a really positive impact and is a nice escape from day to day things that you have to deal with all.
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