Big Garden Birdwatch might seem a little out of reach when you don't have your own garden. RSPB Scotland's Allie McGregor talks about some of the different ways she might get involved despite her garden-less flat.

Big Garden Birdwatch for the garden-less

One of the things I miss most about the home I grew up in is the garden. With a bird sanctuary on one side and the local botanic garden on the other, we were truly spoiled with our garden visitors. Unfortunately, at the time I think my younger self might not have appreciated this enough! Since moving to Scotland, I have found much beauty elsewhere in the city, such as the impressive historic buildings, but I have often found myself living in a flat, several stories up, and relegating most of my gardening to some potted herbs on a window sill.


From left to right: Kākā in my childhood garden, takahē at local bird sanctuary, kererū at local bird sanctuary (I grew up in New Zealand). Photo Credit: Marti Eller

I imagine I am far from the only nature and bird lover who finds myself in this situation. Since moving from the city centre I have begun to see some more feathered friends, but given it’s there in the name, Big Garden Birdwatch can feel a little out of reach for those of us without a garden to spend the hour watching. So I’ve been having a little think about where I can go to get involved…

While peeking out of my partners window to watch in the small flocks of starlings that gather in their garden, I realised of course I had access to a garden I could use. One option for those of us feeling deprived of garden access is to meet with friends or family members who do have a garden and do the birdwatch together. There’s no limit to the number of people who can do it in a group, and there’s a space on your form to say how many people took part.

It could also be a brilliant opportunity to do a wildlife-friendly garden makeover – Fill up some feeders or make your own, clean the nestboxes before they’re back in use, and check the bird bath is full. Your family or friends might not have thought of getting involved in Big Garden Birdwatch, so you can bring the Big Garden Birdwatch to them.

Now that’s certainly a convenient solution for me, but someone else might live quite far from their family, and your mates might not have a garden available. The good news is, if you’re up for bracing the cold, local public spaces like a park are also great for the Big Garden Birdwatch. Wrap up warm – don’t forget your gloves – and go and explore the parks and green spaces near you. You might discover a great new place for weekend walks, some stunning nature you never knew was so close, and a great place for future birdwatches.

One final suggestion is to have a go at your workplace. In 2017, we expanded the Big Garden Birdwatch to three days so that it includes a week day. Gather up your team over a lunch hour and enjoy nature. Everyone can get involved in surveying the birds around you. I'm hoping to get some of the RSPB Scotland folk involved when we're out and about on the Monday!

I hope no one feels as if they can't be a part of our biggest wildlife survey in it's 40th year. There's still time to sign up and see some of our great bonus content online. Check out rspb.org.uk/birdwatch. I can't wait to hear all about what you all get up to next weekend!

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