For four decades, the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch has monitored the avian visitors in our gardens and in 2020 nearly half a million people took part! It's always a highlight of my year.
It simply involves logging the birds you see in your garden over an hour period within those dates and entering it onto the RSPB dedicated website. For me the garden birdwatch happens every single day of my life, as I have been addicted to birds for as long as I can remember.
Although I grew up in SE London, we always had a bird table and that is where my love affair with garden birds started. I have always been a diary writer and, reading back on my entries from when I was about 8 years old to 18 years old, they were dominated with nature observations, mainly birds!
This year, we’ve all seen how important the natural world is to our mental health and wellbeing. It has been a fact I have known all my life, but may be appreciated more so than ever, in this last year. There has been a surge in interest in the nature on our doorsteps and many people have come to realise how feeding the birds and watching them, can bring joy and comfort in these difficult times.
Being in contact with nature, and that can be as simple as watching birds on a feeder or bird table, can elevate stress. There is no doubt that being in nature and discovering its wonders, brings a sense of calm. Scientific studies have shown how, spending time watching wildlife (and that even includes watching it on a screen if you cannot do it for real) can reduce stress, blood pressure and heart rate.
All of my bird feeders have cameras on them and these are wired back into my office. The cameras record 24-7 and, at any point, I can click on replay and see what has happened during the day. I can also lift and save footage. I can even access these cameras via an app on my phone, so I am never far from being able to see my garden birds. It is an integral part of my life. I live stream my feeders on my Wildlife Kate website, so you, too, can share my birds. I am also streaming three other set-ups I have been involved with; two in Scotland and one in Ecuador!
Watching and feeding the birds is just so easy and we can all do it in some way. Even if you live in a flat in a city, you will have a window. There will be some birds… somewhere in your view. I have seen people set up a feeder on a balcony on a tower block and attract birds, even if they are pigeons. A window feeder can offer a chance to get birds visiting close. If you have a garden, then I personally, cannot see why you wouldn’t have a feeder as it has always been one of the first things I do… even when I go on holiday, I will take a feeder and set it up!
Bird watching is a fantastic way to get kids engaged with the wildlife on their doorstep. I have been a teacher for over 30 years and love sharing my love of birdwatching with the next generation. I have yet to find a child who I have not managed to get excited about birds!
With Big Garden Birdwatch coming up, I have created lots of content on my website to help anyone who wants to know more. I have called it the ‘Lockdown Garden Birdwatch’.
Find flashcards and quizzes to help you and your kids learn to recognise the most common species. Great for home learning!
I have also produced content about what to look out for in a feeder and what foods to use, if you are new to bird feeding. What can be even more fun, is making your own feeders out of things you might already have in the house! I have used Duplo characters, Lego, whisks and ladles!
Finally, I have a section for you to share your birdwatching. It’s primarily for kids, but I would love to hear from anyone about what they do to attract birds. ‘Become a Lockdown Garden Birdwatch Champ’ aims to showcase what some people are doing, in the hope it will inspire others to have a go too!
I can’t recommend feeding the birds enough… it’s great for wildlife… and possibly more importantly, it’s great for you too! If you are really not in a position to have your own feeder, then at least find some good live wildlife cams to watch on the Internet. There are plenty around and having them on in the background will be much more beneficial than the news on repeat…. give it a go… you won’t regret it!
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