This weekend (Jan 30-31) marks the annual RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch project. This project is now in its 31st year and is a very important study of the behaviour of UK garden birds.
According to the latest RSPB podcast, this year has been particularly tough for some of the smallest garden birds (such as wrens). We all know how cold the weather has been in December and January, and the harsh conditions can hit the bird population hard if they cannot access food and water.
The RSPB use data collected over this weekend to assess changes in different bird species over time and within and between areas of the country. Last year was a bumper year for participation in Birdwatch, its 30th anniversary. The top three birds seen were sparrows, starlings, and blackbirds. Surprisingly though, numbers of these supposedly common birds have declined substantially over the past 30 years. More information here.
To take part in Birdwatch, all you need to do is sit down in view of your garden or in a park for an hour, with a pen and paper, and make a note of the birds you spot. The RSPB have a useful downloadable sheet (pdf) with pictures for identification. Mark down the highest number of every species of bird that lands in your garden at any one time (to make sure you don't count the same bird twice). Once your hour is up, log on to the RSPB website to submit your results. (If you preregister now [here], you currently can get 10% off bird food and feeders!)
Tips for success are to put out lots of food just before your hour, and move your bird table where you can see it easily!
This will be a lovely experience for my children, who I am sure will love spotting birds and watching them feeding and moving around the garden.