Big Garden Birdwatch

Big Garden Birdwatch

The RSPB ask people to count the birds that visit their garden or local public place, for the Big Garden Birdwatch. It’s the 40th event this year!

Take part in the Big Garden Birdwatch

Saturday 26 – Monday 28 January 2019

500,000+, that’s over HALF A MILLION people, regularly take part in this event. Do you?

Click on this link to get your FREE kit from the RSPB.

The huge numbers of people who take part enable the RSPB to create a ‘snapshot’ of bird numbers across the UK, region by region, and to see how different species are either thriving or declining.

The survey has shown us that house sparrows and starlings have been significantly affected with seriously declining numbers but the collared dove has done exceptionally well – they only started breeding in the UK in 1955. While it highlights the problems it’s also an alert to what’s happening which gives time to try to put things right.

Don’t forget – if you take any photos of the birds, share them with us! Join the Visit Fylde Coast Facebook Group and post them there.

40 years of the Big Garden Birdwatch

The Big Garden Birdwatch started out on Blue Peter, when children were asked to report what birds they saw in their garden. Back in the days before the internet, a whopping 34 mailbags full of answers arrived, for the RSPB to sort!

All these years later, the Big Garden Birdwatch is now the world’s largest wildlife survey. Half a million people become citizen scientists for the weekend to take part. In 2014 the RSPB started asking what other wildlife visits your garden.

We’re beginning our very own citizen science project here at Visit Fylde Coast. Join in with Coast Watchers to record how our shoreline changes throughout the year.

Count the Birds

All you need to do is sit with a pen and a piece of paper, or a printout of the handy RSPB bird ID sheet, and watch the birds for an hour in your garden or local park. You can do it from inside your house, out in the garden or park, or maybe join in with a local group.

You simply need to count the highest number of each species that you see on the ground or perched in bushes at any one time (not flying past), and then record what you see.

The Big Garden Birdwatch of 2011 listed 70 species of birds that visited gardens all over the UK, including woodpeckers, jackdaws, willow tits and goldfinches, plus bramblings, waxwings and wrens.How many of them do you get in your garden?

Strange visitors to our shores

An unexpected benefit of life on the Fylde Coast is that it’s a migratory path for many birds which come in and out of the country during the year.

So you might also get a chance to see some strange visitors blown off course into your garden or nearby open spaces. For example in early 2011, Cleveleys came to life with bird watchers who flocked to see the Purple Sandpiper which set up home for a few weeks on the rock groyne just next to the cafe. A month or two later, a Northern Wheatear was blown off course and took refuge for a couple of hours in the shelter of a seafront back garden. They’ve been seen in other years too.

Feed the Birds

Feeding garden birds, especially through the harsh months, is vital for their survival when natural winter food supplies are running low.

Not only will you help them to survive, you’ll get to see their antics close up as they squabble for food and eat all your treats, and may even be encouraged to nest in your garden.

Feeding the birds also has a major boost for gardeners. Attracting them to the easy food sources which you provide means that they will also spend time picking about in your borders and bushes. There they clear away greenfly and slugs, keeping your plants pest free.

For complete details about how, what and when to feed the birds, learn more from the RSPB website at this link

Meanwhile in our back garden…

For my own part, I’ve always fed the garden birds from being a young girl. I learned how to make fat cakes for the birds from Blue Peter!

When we moved to Cleveleys I was astonished at the lack of garden birds and quickly set about attracting them to our back garden.

Many householders have concrete gardens near to the sea because of the inhospitable weather conditions, so one of the first things we did was to convert our own concrete jungle into a green oasis.

Even with a regular battering from the weather, we now have a mixed hedgerow. We grow hawthorne, fruit trees, honeysuckle, ivy, roses and more, all twined together to create shelter and habitats for nesting birds and a year round food supply.

Our lawn is handy for us to use as a family, but it’s also a hunting ground for the local blackbirds who also nest in our garden.

Fresh water is important and we provide a big saucer of water which they all use all year round for drinking and bathing. Each day I put out just enough food for them to eat that day. I buy ‘no mess’ or ‘no grow’ food, so they eat the whole thing. Minimal rubbish accumulates under the feeders and barely anything grows there either.

To my delight, our garden is now alive each day with the twittering of a sparrow colony, the song of the starlings, and the melodic chirping of goldfinches. They’re beautiful birds, the red capped clown of the sky that seems to be very common around here. We’ve even seen them nesting in the trees on Fleetwood high street and at Affinity (Freeport). Now, they nest here with us each year too, attracted by the hedge and the niger feeder!

Along with the sparrows and starlings, we have a resident robin and pair of blackbirds. We get visiting garden birds in the shape of wrens, blue tits, great tits and collared doves.

Nesting Birds

We did have starlings nesting in the cavities in the house but that was stopped due to an unacceptable level of mess down the back door!

They’re now quite content in their parrot nesting box right under the eaves. They raise their babies there and shelter during the winter months.

Nesting starlings - in a parrot box! Big garden birdwatch
Nesting starlings – in a parrot box!

Our pair of blackbirds usually makes half a dozen nests before settling down to raise babies.

Nesting blackbird in our garden. Big garden birdwatch
Nesting blackbird in our garden

However, the sparrows never did use their sparrow box that I put up for them a few years ago.

Other visitors to our garden

Less popular with some people, but we also have a tame pair of seagulls and dare I say it, some visiting feral pigeons. They all co-exist quite happily in our little back garden. Having your own seagulls has its advantages too. Being territorial, they keep away the hundreds of other seagulls who might otherwise visit.

My biggest challenge is keeping the sparrowhawk away – it’s intent on eating my sparrow population one by one. Then when the baby birds fledge the next problem is the cats of the neighbourhood and making sure they don’t dispatch the little ones. It’s not good for my nerves either!

A gardeners garden

On the face of it our garden looks like a gardeners garden. At a glance it’s neat and tidy and well ordered with straight borders and lots of flowers and neatly trimmed plants. But it’s a haven for wildlife.

We don’t use sprays or chemicals unless we absolutely have to. Spring will see me squashing lily beetles between finger and thumb with gay abandon. The birds repay us by eating the greenfly and other bugs. We’ve had several wild bee nests under the shed and been thrilled to watch them buzzing about.

I leave a trail of leaves along the back of the borders during winter for the birds to forage about in and clear it all up in spring. We leave the bottom bit of garden alone which is out of sight of the house.

Personally I get a huge amount of satisfaction from a few pounds worth of bird food a week. I’m supporting a few birds of two species which are in trouble, and enjoying less pests in my garden as a result. So we all win!

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One Comment
  1. Avatar

    We won the wildlife frendy garden a few years ago in Catterall and now we are spending over £5a week on bird food to keep them well fed as they have grown acoustumed to,the great joy we get from watching the birds from our windows is worth its weight in gold .

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