This is a regular January event in our household. It’s a really good family nature activity. I’m talking about the RSPB's Big Garden Birdwatch. A nationwide event where you count the largest groups of birds in your garden and submit them to the RSPB so they can find out what is happening to our garden bird population. My son is very familiar with bird watching so it was easy to get him to participate. The binoculars are always part of our holiday luggage and go with us on most family walks. He’s been a junior RSPB member, with the great name of Wildlife Explorer, for a couple of years. The magazines, sent quarterly, are brilliant and geared to specific age range and about all UK nature and animals, not just birds. As well as free entry to RSPB reserves he gets free entry to the Wildfowl and Wetland Centres.
This year with snow and cold temperatures around it was likely that different, perhaps more unusual birds would be seen. We prepared carefully and brought new stock of bird seed for the feeders. Saturday’s Telegraph featured the Birdwatch so that was brought in addition to our usual Saturday newspaper, Birds seem to feed more in the morning, especially on a winter’s day so after a little lie in on Sunday and quick breakfast, but without getting dressed we started. Our feeders are visible from the back of the house in the past we just have watched them and always done the birdwatch from indoors.
Well the birds weren’t playing ball this weekend. Not a sign of one on the feeders and nothing scrambling around in the flower beds – one of their favourite locations.
Frustrations grew. ‘Where are all the birds mummy’?’ ‘This bird watching is stupid’ says my son. There was nothing for it, surely the whole area could not be devoid of birds. There are always birds in our garden. We are always seeing them and hearing then. Sound – that was the clue. You can usually hear, but not always see them. But that song, call and coo can lead you to them. So out we went in pyjamas and dressing gowns. Yes, we were going to be that mad family next door.And so we were. Yet it worked. Stepping outside the back door we were met with numerous bird sounds. Our list gradually became longer. Not that it is a competition, but with an 8 yr old some length and variety on the list does help. We did not see any large groupings of bird, the flocks of field fares certainly did not appear to have reached us.
2 crows, 1 Greenfinch, 1 robin singing its heart out, 2 starling, 2 pigeons, 1 sparrow, 1 blackbird and the best of best , 1 green woodpecker and 1 greater spotted woodpecker.
One last stage and that was to submit the information online. This year the RSPB have thoughtfully provided a certificate to, say that the children have taken part. Its been placed next to my son's bed this evening.
Move outside and a whole world awaits. Next year we will get dressed.