The upcoming Big Garden Birdwatch is a great way to introduce children to nature

This year’s Big Garden Birdwatch, organised by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), begins a week today, and it really couldn’t be easier to take part, even if you know next to nothing about birds. As it says on the RSPB website, Big Garden Birdwatch is “for everyone, whether you’re a complete beginner or a birding expert.” In 2021, more than one million people took part. Anyone can get involved in birdwatching. It is easy to start, requires little or no money and is good for you. It is also a great way for children to learn more about — and to learn to appreciate and value — nature.

The 2022 Big Garden Birdwatch takes place between 28 and 30 January. It is really easy to get involved. You can do your counting from your garden if you have one, your window or balcony, or from the local park. There is a free Big Garden Birdwatch guide and ID chart available from the RSPB website for those who don’t know one bird species from another.

All you need to do to take part is:

  • watch the birds around you for one hour
  • count how many of each species of bird land
  • report your findings online

Life-Based Learning is all about engagement and participation. Big Garden Birdwatch is a fantastic opportunity to take part in something positive, and the RSPB website is excellent for people who are looking to be more actively involved in helping protect birds and other animals. Indeed, the RSPB makes the point that UK gardens, backyards and balconies are almost three times bigger than all of the RSPB’s 200-plus nature reserves combined, which means that individual action can make a big difference and that you don’t even have to go anywhere to help out.

The RSPB’s website is packed with expert ‘how to’ guides and with ideas for interacting with nature, all from your own doorstep. These titles give you a flavour of what’s available:  

  • Making your outdoor space wildlife-friendly
  • Building a bug hotel
  • Creating a cosy starling home

There is a serious point, of course: birds are in grave danger, in Britain and across the world. According to the RSPB, we have lost 38 million birds from UK skies in the last 50 years. In December 2021 the new UK Red List for birds report placed 70 species in the ‘highest conservation concern’ category, a figure that has almost doubled in the past 25 years. Newly added species include the swift (58% decline since 1995), house martin (57% decline since 1969), greenfinch (62% decline since 1993) and Bewick’s swan.

With almost double the number of birds on the Red List since the first review in 1996, we are seeing once common species such as swift and greenfinch now becoming rare. As with our climate this really is the last-chance saloon to halt and reverse the destruction of nature. We often know what action we need to take to change the situation, but we need to do much more, rapidly and at scale. The coming decade is crucial to turning things around.

Beccy Speight, CEO of the RSPB

In October 2021 it was reported that one in five of Europe’s bird species are heading towards extinction and that 30% of native species are in decline due to loss of habitat, intensive farming and the climate crisis.

Birdwatching has many positives to it. The RSPB reported the findings of a survey that two-thirds of the public had “found solace in watching birds and hearing their song” during the Covid lockdown of 2020. And we have argued in a previous blog that birdwatching is a great way for children to learn more about nature:

You can birdwatch alone or in small friendship groups. It can be done as a family. And there is, of course, huge scope for schools to incorporate birdwatching into the curriculum — from learning about birds in science to art and photography activities, from school-wide birdwatch events to organised field trips and other outdoor work. The possibilities are endless.

Birdwatching is a great way for children to learn more about nature

Meanwhile, there is a great story in the Guardian today about retired salesman John Stimpson who, moved by the cries of swifts unable to find nests, has built 30,000 swift boxes. He has also made hundreds of boxes for barn owls, blue tits, finches, blackbirds and thrushes. “I get so much pleasure from wildlife. Building these boxes is one way I can pay it back,” Stimpson is quoted as saying.

The article also describes the successful work done by local volunteer groups to support bird populations. “Volunteers want to emulate the success story of barn owls. In 1987, these farmland birds were at their lowest ebb with 4,500 breeding pairs. Thanks to volunteers, today there are about 12,000 breeding pairs in the UK, with 80% living in human-made boxes.”

More About Nature and the Environment

Image at the head of this article by Oldiefan from Pixabay.

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