For me, the time after Christmas excitement combined with the short winter days can feel rather bleak. But there’s something I’ve now come to associate with the promise of spring, a glimmer of hope of warmer days to come and it happens every January…
Fifteen years ago, we started taking part in the RSPB’s annual #BigGardenBirdWatch. I was fairly sceptical when I first sat down in 2003 armed with a pen, paper and binoculars, after all who wants to be labelled a ‘twitcher’! But this hour spent quietly watching what was going on in our garden brought a sense of calm and serenity. The same has happened year in, year out and now the birdwatch has become an annual event we look forward to. Since our children came along, we’ve encouraged them, albeit they’re somewhat reluctant, to get involved too – although the full hour can seem endless for them!
One thing I hadn’t anticipated was that we’d see for ourselves the changes in populations of our feathered friends over this 15-year period; the numbers of greenfinch, house sparrows and long-tailed tits have dropped dramatically but starling numbers are on the rise, at least in our garden. Each year we hope to see a bird that’s not on the guide the RSPB provides to help identify each species. There’s something of a thrill to be able to tick the ‘other’ box, I suppose because it doesn’t happen very often! For us, that’s included one bird – a single siskin – that visited us just to take part in the bird count and we haven’t seen since!
This year’s birdwatch takes place this coming weekend, 26-28 January. If you want to get involved, it only takes an hour and there’s lots of handy information and guides at rspb.org.uk; you can also register there for a free postal pack to help you get geared up for the weekend. More than half a million people take part each year and their findings identify a useful snapshot of the UK’s most popular garden birds. And since 2014, the RSPB has started to include other wildlife in the survey too.
So why not give it a go? That single hour could kindle an interest you or your family never knew you had. You might be surprised just how much you enjoy it!