The Big Garden Birdwatch is the world’s largest garden wildlife survey, and the data it provides gives the RSPB valuable insight into the welfare of our garden wildlife. But that doesn’t mean you must have your own garden to take part. From 26–28 January, you can spend an hour counting the birds and do your bit for nature, no matter how big or small your local patch.
Set up feeders to attract birds into your garden. You'll be surprised how many species will visit even a city garden. Photo: Eleanor Bentall (rspb-images.com)
In the garden
The most obvious place to do the Big Garden Birdwatch is in your garden. Whether that’s a rolling lawn or a tiny patio, your garden can still provide vital habitat for wildlife, so take a look at what species call your garden home. Even if you see nothing in your allocated hour, still let the RSPB know – it's important to map where birds are not, as well as where they are. Stock up on food from the RSPB shop and see what pays you a visit.
You can do the Big Garden Birdwatch from a balcony, a roof garden, or in a churchyard or park.
No garden? No problem.
Maybe there’s a rock dove (feral pigeon) that regularly visits your balcony, or a pied wagtail that hops around your drive in the morning? A lack of garden doesn’t mean you can’t do the Big Garden Birdwatch. Whether its a balcony or a drive way, a decked terrace of a flat roof, let the RSPB know what you see in one spot around your home.
Schools can sign up to the Big Schools' Birdwatch to take part in playground and on sports fields. Photo: Eleanor Bentall (rspb-images.com)
In your neighbourhood
You can do the Big Garden Birdwatch out and about, too. Take a trip to your local park, pond or other green space. Is there a shared garden you have access to? An allotment? Perhaps a community centre garden or churchyard? Sit for an hour and record what you see. You can also do the Big Garden Birdwatch at work or at school, so be sure to sign up and get involved.
“I think it’s safe to say that urban areas are finally being recognised as viable places to observe nature,” says Nature’s Home magazine columnist and urban birder, David Lindo. “Gardens are usually a great place to start. By putting out good food, supplying fresh water, providing nesting places and planting insect-attracting flora, you should be onto a winner.
"Not everyone has the luxury of owning a garden in our towns and cities. I don’t have one. So, we have to search further afield – and it doesn’t have to be a million miles from your doorstep. Look for areas that are a bit quieter and thus conducive for a spot of urban birding, in likely spots such as your local park, cemetery or along a river. I find parks particularly interesting as they probably offer the best range of species. They often contain a variety of habitats including water bodies, woods and grassland – all of which can attract a host of birds.”
Visit an RSPB reserve near you to join in with a range of Big Garden Birdwatch events.
On a reserve
Head to one of the RSPB reserves to join in an exciting Big Garden Birdwatch event. This year sees the 40th anniversary of the Big Garden Birdwatch, so there is a whole host of fantastic events to choose from.
Visit RSPB Lake Vyrnwy, Powys, on Sunday 20 January 11am–2pm to learn how to ID common bird species, or enjoy a free day at Belfast WOW on Saturday 19 January, 11am–2pm, making tasty bird treats.
On Saturday 26 January you can take part in a family fun day of crafts and activities at RSPB Bempton Cliffs, East Yorkshire, 10am–3pm, or join the RSPB in Bute Park Education Centre, Cardiff, for an afternoon of free family fun.
There are loads of events happening all over the country, visit our reserves pages to find an event near you.
Where we’re doing the Big Garden Birdwatch
The suburban garden – Anna Scrivenger, Editor, Nature's Home magazine
"We’ll be doing our Big Garden Birdwatch as a family. We’ll grab a notepad and ID sheet and crowd around the end of the dining table, by the window that overlooks the back garden – and the nice warm radiator underneath it! It’s quite a large garden for a small, suburban Victorian semi. We have a patio by the house, then a lawn, vegetable beds, mini orchard, play area and wild areas, and we can’t see all of it from the house. So we’ve put the feeders quite close to the windows. Most birds – such as starlings and great tits, usually come in to the nearest apple tree, then hop into the shrubbery, then seize something from the feeders and retreat to the tree with it. Collared doves and woodpigeons will hog the table for ages, and the nyjer-seed feeder gets covered in lovely goldfinches. There’s always plenty to watch!"
The city garden – Ellen Wade, Group Account Director, RSPB magazines
"I will be doing my Big Garden Birdwatch in my city garden, which backs on to a river. I will do it from my living room so hoping to be toasty-warm while watching out for my wish list! "
The woodland garden – Jo Murphy, Account Manager, RSPB magazines
I’ll be taking part in the Big Garden Birdwatch from my garden in the depths of the Wiltshire countryside. Our long, sloped garden backs onto a small wood, so I’m excited to see what birds visit and start to introduce my one-year-old to the nature that is all around him!
The city patio – Emma Pocklington, Deputy Editor, Nature's Home magazine
I'll be doing the Big Garden Birdwatch in my small city garden. It's a small area of decking with a wall around it, so I've done my best to add in pots of native plants and small shrubs to make it appealing to wildlife. I may also do another hour out the front of my house – the residential street sees a surprising amount of bird activity around the hedges and hanging baskets.
The country garden – Alun Harris. Senior Art Editor, Nature's Home magazine
I'll be doing the Big Garden Birdwatch in my garden in Somerset. It's close to a railway line, so it doesn't immediately seem like the best place for wildlife with the trains rattling past, but with the feeders stocked and the hedges providing cover we get more birds than you might expect."
Find out more about the Big Garden Birdwatch in our guide.
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