RSPB NI shares top tips ahead of world’s biggest garden wildlife survey
With the world’s largest garden wildlife survey taking place this week (January 28-30), the RSPB NI’s East Area Manager has revealed how you can enjoy the majestic colour and chorus of a multitude of different types of birds by following some simple advice.
Last year over one million people took part in the Big Garden Birdwatch, helping to count 17 million different birds and making it the biggest ever event of its kind. Now organisers are keen for the 2022 survey to break all records.
RSPB NI’s Claire Barnett says even a simple feeder can help attract a wide variety of birds to your garden or outdoor space.
Whatever your outdoor space, be it a balcony, courtyard or garden, Claire has expert tips and tricks to make it a happier place for you — and the nature on your doorstep.
At this time of year, wildlife, especially garden birds, need high-energy (high-fat) foods during the colder weather to maintain their fat reserves to survive the chilly nights and will take advantage of any food put out for them.
So now is the perfect time to birdwatch at home, whether you’re a complete beginner or a birding expert. You never know what you might see, from cheeky robins to a troop of long-tailed tits. Here are Claire’s top tips:
Where to put bird feeders and tables?
You can put your bird feeder in all sorts of places but aim for somewhere quiet where birds won’t be disturbed and of course somewhere safe, meaning not too close to bushes where cats could hide in and wait, but close enough to cover so birds can easily dart to and from.
Remember to keep the feeders sheltered from harsh winds and wherever you place it, make sure you can see it when you’re indoors so you can get the most pleasure from it.
You can even get a feeder that sticks to your window.
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.
You might also consider including a feeder tray where possible to both save on wasted food and allow more feathered friends a place to perch.
Remember the water
Birds like a drink too. You don’t even 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 also, or maybe add a shallow or sloping area to a pond. Have you got a water feature or fountain in the back yard? That will do too!
Remember to keep it clean, put out fresh water every day and pour warm water onto any ice that forms in the winter, birds need water all year round.
Keep it clean
It’s very important to keep bird feeders clean to stop a build-up of bacteria and viruses that can spread diseases and infections among garden birds. Be sure to wear gloves and use warm soapy water.
You can scrub feeders inside and out using a strong, long bristled brush, do this in a bucket, not in your kitchen sink using a mild, non-toxic disinfectant. Make sure the feeder is thoroughly dry before refilling it with food and ensure you clean your feeders every week.
Get to know your birds at an RSPB nature reserve
RSPB wildlife experts can help you identify garden birds, giving you their top tips and advice on what to look out for.
You’ll also enjoy a guided walk on a nature reserve to help put all you’ve learned into practice. Plus, they can help you get all the birds flocking to your Birdwatch, with expert advice on attracting and feeding birds.
For instance, take a trip to Portmore Lough, Co Antrim, for some birdwatching inspiration. The reserve has a variety of different habitats, including a freshwater lough, surrounded by large reedbed, fen, wet woodlands, and a substantial area of wet grassland which is managed for breeding wading birds such as lapwing and snipe.
Portmore Lough is a fantastic place to visit at any time of year. In late winter, huge swirling flocks of lapwing and golden plover fly over the flooded meadows, a wonderful spectacle on a cold winter’s day.
On the lough, pochard and tufted duck numbers are at their peak. Look out for the occasional scaup and goldeneye coming from Lough Neagh.
Over the past year, 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.
If you love what you see, why not sign up and join over a million people taking part in RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch.
Simply count the birds you see in your garden, from your balcony or in your local park for one hour between January 28 and 30 this week and report your results so the RSPB can see how local bird populations are faring.
To sign up, visit rspb.org.uk/birdwatch