Hundreds of thousands of people across the UK will celebrate their love of nature and unite to watch and count the nation’s garden birds over the last weekend in January for the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch, and the RSPB is counting on Dorset residents to join in too.

We’ve seen how important the natural world is to our mental health and wellbeing. There has been a surge in interest in the nature on our doorsteps and many people have come to rely on garden birds to bring joy and comfort in these unsettling times.

This year’s event takes place on January 29, 30 and 31. Dorset residents are asked to spend just one hour watching and recording the birds in their garden, balcony or local park, then send their results to the RSPB.

Just one hour every year, for the last four decades, has made the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch the largest garden wildlife citizen science project. Now in its 42nd year, 144 million birds have been counted giving the RSPB an astonishing amount of insight into how our wildlife is faring.

“We know that for many people, garden birds provide an important connection to the wider world and bring enormous joy," says RSPB chief executive Beccy Speight.

"Lockdown brought few benefits, but the last year has either started or reignited a love of nature for many people. There has been a broad and much-needed realisation that nature is an important and necessary part of our lives especially for our mental health and wellbeing. But nature needs us too.

“By taking part in the Birdwatch, you are helping to build an annual snapshot of how our birdlife is doing across the UK. It is only by us understanding how our wildlife is faring that we can protect it. We know that nature is in crisis but together, we can take action to solve the problems facing nature.”

To take part in the Big Garden Birdwatch 2021, watch the birds in your garden or local park for one hour at some point over the three days. Only count the birds that land, not those flying over. Tell us the highest number of each bird species you see at any one time – not the total you see in the hour.

Dorset Society: RSPB Big Garden BirdwatchRSPB Big Garden Birdwatch

Registration is open now.

rspb.org.uk/birdwatch

 

Here are some tips on how to attract birds to your garden

What to feed them:

  • There are lots of different bird foods available, including mixes for bird feeders and bird tables, as well as for ground feeding:
  • Blackbirds mostly feed on the ground and will eat any thing from fatty nibbles to mealworms
  • Blue tits and great tits use a feeder, eating seeds as well as suet and peanuts
  • Finches, including chaffinches and greenfinches, use both a feeder and a bird table, and they love sunflower hearts
  • Look for good quality bird food – those that don’t include ‘fillers’ such as dried peas and beans that birds rarely eat.
  • You can put out leftovers such as some bread, fruit cake, dried fruit, unsalted nuts, or fruit such as apples and pears. Don’t use anything mouldy or salty though, and if you have a dog don’t put out dried fruit – vine fruits such as raisins can be toxic to them.

 

You can put your bird feeder in all sorts of places, but aim for somewhere:

  • Quiet – where birds won't be disturbed.
  • Safe – not too close to bushes where cats could hide in wait, but close enough to cover that birds can easily dart to and fro.
  • Sheltered from harsh winds.
  • Attached directly to a window, as this can work well too.
  • Especially as you’ll want to make sure you can see it when you’re indoors to get the most pleasure from it!
  • Bear in mind, it can take a little bit of time for the birds to get used to a new feeder, so don’t be disappointed if not many birds visit at first.

 

Remember the water

Birds like a drink too, but you don't need a traditional bird bath:

  • Try a dinner plate or breakfast bowl - anything shallow that holds water will do
  • Large plant pot trays work well
  • Add a shallow or sloping area to a pond
  • Use a water feature or fountain
  • And remember to:
  • Keep it clean
  • Put out fresh water every day
  • Pour warm water onto any ice that forms in the winter, birds need water all year round