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RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch

  • Thu 28th Jan, 2021

My interest in birds goes back to when I was very young. I can clearly remember taking part in the very first RSPB Garden birdwatch, 42 years ago. The event was promoted on Blue Peter and I needed no further encouragement than to be told when I needed to count the birds. A few blue tits hanging on the red mesh peanut feeder, a house sparrow on the back fence and a couple of starlings flying down to feed on the grass and I’d completed my first entry.

Coal Tit © Margaret BoydCoal Tit © Margaret Boyd

The first of many; whether it has been in my family garden as I grew up, a walk in the local park when I was at university or staying with family or sitting juggling youngsters on my knee when my own children were young. And I have enjoyed every one of them, all for different reasons over the years. Sometimes the results have been sparse or not indicative of the usual visitors, with the flock of long tailed tits flying in ten minutes after the survey has finished. I’ve had times when the garden has been covered with a blanket of snow and fieldfares have been feeding on rotten apples on the lawn. We’ve got grannie involved, with my children helping her spot birds and pointing out the difference between blue tits and great tits, without realising they knew more about garden birds than they thought. In her twenties, I’m happy to say my daughter and her boyfriend will be getting involved on their own for the first time now that they have somewhere to hang a feeder.

Blackbird © Margaret BoydBlackbird © Margaret Boyd

As an outdoor teacher, I have enjoyed inspiring children to get outside and watch garden birds in readiness for the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch. This year, I found myself doing the same but over a virtual meeting with photos of birds pinned to the wall behind me! Strange times, but as teachers we adapt and where I would have taken children outside to watch birds hop, fly, peck and sing in a park, garden or on a walk, this week I have done it virtually.

Tree Sparrow © Margaret BoydTree Sparrow © Margaret Boyd

My audience did all the actions in their front rooms, they looked at the photos and took part in a quiz. I demonstrated how to make bird feeders and we pretended that the photo of a busy bird table was real and so we counted and recorded the birds. Not quite the same, but I’ve heard that some keen boys are already making fat balls and a Dad has been given the perfect excuse to buy some binoculars as his daughter is desperate to get involved. Job done.

Marsh Tit © Margaret BoydMarsh Tit © Margaret Boyd

So, with some new recruits to this fantastic citizen science project taking part this weekend we all need to sit back and once again enjoy the delights of our garden birds. The highlight in my garden these past few months has been an increase in the numbers of greenfinches visiting. Not so long ago they suffered from a population crash as many perished due to an infection called trichomonosis, transmitted from unclean bird feeders, so it’s great to see them back. Another notable sighting has been an increase in the number of blue tits, I’m not sure of the reason but it’s a delight to see these acrobatic tits balancing on the fat balls.

Woodpigeon © Margaret BoydWoodpigeon © Margaret Boyd

There’s no better way to spend an hour this weekend recording your garden birds and contributing to this fantastic citizen science project. Visit to take part.

Margaret Boyd

Yorkshire Coast Nature