This weekend stock up your bird feeders, spend one hour of your weekend watching your garden birds, and note down the highest number you see of each bird species. This is the weekend of the "RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch". Last year nearly half a million people throughout the UK and over thirty on Arran took part in this valuable exercise. For more information or to get the form, visit the RSPB website Big Garden Birdwatch http://www.rspb.org.uk/birdwatch/ or phone 0300 456 8330.
….but why do it once a year when you could do it throughout the year through the British Trust for Ornithology's excellent Garden BirdWatch scheme and contribute to our understanding of garden birds?
Take for example the Coal Tit. This winter they have appeared in numbers in many gardens across Arran. Coal Tits bring plenty of activity into gardens, as they dash restlessly to and from seed feeders. During autumn they spend much of their time storing food to ensure that they have plentiful supplies for the winter ahead. Research shows that they can remember such hiding places for around four weeks, so look out for individuals retrieving these morsels in the depths of winter.
This increase in Coal Tits in Arran is reflected across the UK. Results from the BTO Garden BirdWatch through its network of 14,000 volunteers, show a substantial upsurge in garden use, with Coal Tits turning to feeders in huge numbers. Usually recorded in roughly half of gardens during November and early December, this year Coal Tit have been reported in nearly three-quarters of gardens. Coal Tits have visited more gardens in the last few weeks than during the same period in any of the 17 years over which the BTO Garden BirdWatch survey has been running.
It appears that tree seed crops have been poor this year, leaving many seed-eating birds with little natural food. For example, the seed cones of conifers are relished by Coal Tits but they only open under dry conditions with damp weather leaving them firmly closed. Coal Tits then have to find food elsewhere and this may have resulted in this increase use of garden feeders.
Anyone who watches garden birds can get involved with the BTO Garden BirdWatch project, which is the largest year-round survey of garden birds in the world. On Arran, eight people are already involved. Not only is the survey great fun but simple observations made by participants build up our collective understanding of garden birds and help to protect bird populations. It is easy to join. To find out more visit this website Garden BirdWatch (GBW) | BTO - British Trust for Ornithology http://www.bto.org/volunteer-surveys/gbw