Thursday, 5 February 2015

The Big Garden Birdwatch


I'm starting this blog with a post one one of my (many) goals for 2015- to get more involved in citizen science projects. One of the ones I was most excited to sign up for was the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch.

The Big Garden Birdwatch has a special place in my heart. It was an annual event when I was younger, an excuse to spend a whole weekend sitting in the armchair next to the window, watching the bird feeders, or out in the garden trying (and failing, repeatedly) to creep up on a blackbird without it noticing. I enjoyed it just as much this time round.

I did the birdwatch with two of my flatmates, on a Sunday afternoon. In university halls we’re lacking in a garden, so we had to improvise. It was brilliant fun. We walked round a part of the campus none of us had explored before, and found a path across the common, a hedgerow full of sparrows and allotments full of long tailed tits and goldfinches.

Some things were unexpected. The collared doves which regularly coo all night at home were replaced by magpies and carrion crows in huge numbers. Looking back, I don’t thing I’ve ever seen a collared dove on campus; I’d not expected one of the most common species in my garden to be absent here.

One of the most striking things, however, wasn’t the species we saw- it was the singing. Robins are unusual in singing through the winter, as they maintain their territories through the coldest months, but we heard wrens and tits singing too, as well as the constant high pitched chattering of the long tailed tits. It was the most birdsong I’d heard since the end of autumn, and for me is the single best sign that spring isn’t too far away. Don’t get me wrong, I love winter. I love the crisp, cloudless days where the trees are covered in frost, and I love snow, and I love curling up inside with a book while the wind howls. But spring is special.

I saw the first native snowdrops of the year on the last day of January. They are now my first record on the nature’s calendar survey, a citizen science project run by the Woodland Trust which tracks the signs of changing seasons across the country. The data it collects plays a vital role in our understanding of how climate change is affecting our ecosystems.

Citizen science projects are important. But they are also brilliant fun and a great incentive to get outdoors. When we did the Big Garden Birdwatch, I spent an hour and a half in the fresh air which I’d otherwise probably have spent at my desk, staring at the notes I was meant to be reading. And when you’re really looking for wildlife, you notice things you never would rushing between lectures.

You can find information about The Big Garden Birdwatch here and Nature's Calendar here. The Birdwatch only runs for one weekend in January, but Nature's Calendar runs all year round, is incredibly easy to use and a great way to keep track of the things you see.

Finally, a massive thank you to Elly for the wonderful photos!



  1. This is a great post!! Really interesting and well written, I loved doing the birdwatch with you xxx
    elly from alldeathbydiamonds

    1. Aww thank you!! I'm really glad you enjoyed it (the post and the birdwatch), it was such good fun to do it as a group! And thank you again for your wonderful photography skills xxx

  2. Hey I've nominated you for the Liebster Award! :)