January, 2009

Wildlife

Wildlife
We're about more than just birds (though obviously we like them a lot).

Notes on nature

We love nature... from every little bug on a blade of grass to birds, butterflies, otters and oaks!
  • Was your Big Garden Birdwatch great?

    Hi! How did you get on with Big Garden Birdwatch? Hope you had time to sit down for an hour, grab a cuppa, a bacon butty, a few biscuits or maybe a slice of cake, depending on the time of day...

    Chaffinch. Photo from RSPB ImagesHere are my results:

    You can't get much more relaxing than an hour looking out of the window and watching birds do their thing. The chaffinches kept me busy - I was always trying to see if I could see one more, but they were scattered all over the place.

    It's interesting that I saw 12 greenfinches last year, but only two this year... where were they all? Maybe we'll find out when the results are announced in March.

    I'd just finished putting in the results online (it's more efficient for us to receive your results through the website, so more money for conservation) when I went back to the window. There, in the bush next to the gaggle of chaffinches, was a reed bunting! Why couldn't it have turned up five minutes earlier? Not fair!

    I'm lucky enough to live in rural Cambridgeshire, but you can read how Tim got on with his BGBW in London. I have to say I really enjoyed that hour on Saturday morning. It was frosty outside, with everything dusted in pastel shades, there were lots of birds in the garden, and it was an hour when I could forget about everything else. How often do you get that chance?

    Tell us about it!

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  • A magic weekend?

    It’s a big weekend this one. Whilst I may be heading to London on Saturday, hoping for some magic in the cup, you might be looking out of your window, hoping for some magic on your bird table. House sparrow about to land. Photo by Andy Cooper

    It’s F.A. Cup fourth round weekend, but I’m sure there is something even bigger going on this weekend? Ah, Big Garden Birdwatch! How could I forget? It’s huge, massive. Did you ever think that you would take part in the world’s biggest wildlife survey?

    Whilst there are some people like Katie who’ve had a cunning plan and set up extra food for weeks, my plan is much more simple. It involves: looking out of my window at the single (well stocked) feeder in the tree opposite. Even garden is a bit of a stretch for the few paces of concrete outside. Hopefully, I’ll see a sparrow or two, a chaffinch and if I’m lucky a collared dove or woodpigeon.

    But that doesn’t matter! Katie will probably see more birds, but the Big Garden Birdwatch isn’t about that for me. It’s about spending some quality time looking at the birds on my feeder and appreciating nature. How often do you actually stop and look at what’s going on for anything longer than a minute of two?

    I’ll be watching on Sunday, with a bacon sarnie, probably dreaming about what might, just might, have been. The Big Garden Birdwatch is so simple, who ever thought of doing a wildlife survey whilst eating a bacon sarnie! Genius!

    It's great fun, get the whole family involved. Cook a fry up, have a pot of tea ready, and see what birds appear. That's magic! 

    That’s the beauty of nature; there will always be some magic going on in your garden, on your feeder. But in the cup? Well, who knows? Nature can be like the cup though, sometimes turning up the unexpected. So let's see what turns up over this weekend. It’s a funny old game!

  • Are you ready for Big Garden Birdwatch?

    As you may have read, this year sees the 30th Big Garden Birdwatch. To mark this special anniversary, I'm already putting together a cunning plan for my best Birdwatch ever...

    Strictly speaking, you don't need to do any special preparation for Big Garden Birdwatch. It's fine not to put out any food, but it's likely that you'll see more birds if you do. And, while it's not a competition to see the most, I'm sure you'll agree it's always nice to see a good variety of birds.

    What's on the menu?

    Great spotted woodpecker. Nigel Blake (RSPB Images)I'll be sticking to my trusty sunflower hearts, as nearly all the birds seem to love them: starlings, tits, finches, blackbirds, robins, great spotted woodpeckers...

    There are a few that are picky eaters. What can you feed smaller birds like wrens and dunnocks that creep about in the undergrowth? I reckon you can't go wrong with porridge oats and grated cheese, especially if you can scatter them around where those birds lurk. Calorific bird cake will also go down a storm with birds of all shapes and sizes.

    As a bit of a gamble, I'll be throwing out a few apples. With the recent cold weather, birds like fieldfares, redwings, song and mistle thrushes will go mad for a bit of fruit. Usually, they prefer to feed on worms and creepy-crawlies in the fields, but recent ice and snow has made life difficult for them.

    I'll be even more chuffed if I can attract some waxwings to my garden. They're much prettier than their name suggests: fluffy, pinky-brown birds with crests, black and yellow tails, about the size of a starling. The 'wax' part refers to bright red, waxy blobs which form on their wing feathers. Beautiful! They've come all the way from Scandinavia just to raid our berry bushes, but apples will also please them if berry supplies are running low.

    Don't forget the water!

    Birds need to drink but it's also important for them to bathe, even in cold weather. A quick dip helps them to keep their feathers in order, and tidy feathers mean toasty birds. If you haven't got a pond or a proper birdbath, an upturned dustbin lid will do the trick. Personally, I wouldn't recommend outdoor bathing in these temperatures, but it takes all sorts.

    In 2008, almost 400,000 people counted more than six million birds across 228,000 gardens. That's pretty impressive! I hope you'll join in this year and enjoy a relaxing hour of watching garden birds doing their stuff. It's a great excuse to sit down with a cup of tea and a biscuit... Good luck for 24-25 January everybody!

    How are you preparing for the big day?

  • Tell us about what you're doing or what you've seen (you'll need to register first - this is free - then log in to leave a comment).
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