Despite the current covid19 lockdown and having to spend more time at home and indoors it can be easy to miss what’s going on around you even in your own back gardens. Working from home, home schooling and the endless cleaning and other chores around the home don’t leave much time to take a breath and a moment to relax. Well that can all change this weekend with the RSPB Big Garden Bird Watch. This is your chance to take some time out and enjoy an hour with nature to discover the wildlife on your doorstep.
Running from Friday 29th to Sunday 31st January you can take part in the nations largest bird watch event and join hundreds of thousands of other people in the process. You can even make plans to join up with friends and family over a video call all from the comfort of your own home. This year marks the 42nd annual Big Garden Birdwatch event and last year 485,930 people counted an amazing 7,833,350 birds!
So, now you know what it is, how can you take part, and why do it?
All you need is a piece of paper, pen and 1 hour of your time. Perhaps with your children or relaxing by the window with a nice warm cup of tea or coffee, recording the birds in your garden, around your home, or even your local green space whilst out exercising or walking the dog. Simply make a note of each species you see and how many in that hour. Once you’ve recorded your numbers you can submit your results online to the RSPB via their website www.rspb.org.uk/birdwatch all you need is an internet connection and a digital device like a smartphone, tablet, laptop or desktop computer. You’ve got from 29th January to the 19th February to submit your results.
Because of events like this and your help the RSPB now have over 40 years of bird data in the UK that has helped monitor changes and the challenges faced by birds. Since the first Big Garden Birdwatch started in 1979 many species of bird have declined in numbers, by providing this kind of data the RSPB can study and investigate the reasons and provide clues as to why, and how they can be protected in the future.
For more information and resources visit the RSPB website using this link www.rspb.org.uk/get-involved/activities/birdwatch/ they’ve got great tips on how to encourage birds into your garden, fantastic printable tally sheets with images of some of the most common bird species in the UK to help you identify each one. Some great professional pictures from an award winning photographer along with some hints and tips to taking your own, and they’ll be running some live footage, facts and question & answers sessions. You can even take their ‘what garden bird are you?’ quiz in case you’ve ever wondered. Who knew you were a sociable starling!
How you can use digital to help?
Well you don’t need to physically spend the hour looking out the window. If you haven’t got time or have other responsibilities during daylight hours why not set up a digital camera or use your smartphone’s built in camera to record the action then view it back later. This gives the added benefit of allowing you to fast forward through the quiet bits and focus on the action. You can also pause during the video to give you a chance to check what species you are looking at and record it on your tally sheet.
If you want to go one step further, and if you can afford it, you could set up an external weatherproof wildlife camera, like the one shown below, to get even closer to the action. These devices attach to a tree or outdoor structure like a shed or fence and start recording when they detect movement. The benefit of one of these is it can also record sound and night-time images. Don’t expect daytime levels of picture quality but they will enable you to see birds and other animals close by once the sun goes down.
Usually starting at around £40 new the cheaper models record to built in memory or removable memory card. The more expensive models can live stream footage to a digital device via your WiFi signal and link with an app to give you a notification that there’s some movement.
If you’d prefer to stick with your own smartphone camera but struggle to get close enough or lose image quality zooming in you can always try and snap on an external telescopic lens designed specifically for these devices. There’s lots to choose from and generally the more expensive the better the quality.
If you want to spend your hour more socially why not set up a video call with family and friends to chat with. This could be a great time to catch up with loved ones and work together to record the birds you see. If you’ve got a smartphone or tablet it’s easier than you might think to start a video call. With many of the most popular social media apps all offering video calls within them over the internet at the touch of a button. WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Facetime on apple devices and skype are all free and easy to use.
Want to explore your local area and find some different viewpoints? You can use google maps to help you find some dedicated and amazing vantage points. By typing ‘RSPB bird watching’ into google maps search bar you’ll be shown various locations set up and run by the RSPB (marked by a white fern tree in red pin icon) simply click on the pin for more details. You can even check each location out using peoples uploaded photos and via goggle street view to see what’s there and find your way more easily.
And if any of this gets you motivated for some more wildlife watching but struggling to get out and about due to the current covid19 lockdown restrictions then check out some of the live wildlife camera feeds around the world. The following website lists a large number of different live feeds all free to view, you just need to time it right and check in regularly to get a unique view. https://www.discoverwildlife.com/animal-facts/livestreams-wildlife/
If you prefer your wildlife and bird videos to be all action with different angles and accompanied by the relaxing tones of David Attenborough then check out some of the free to watch TV shows on the BBC iPlayer using your smart TV, smartphone, tablet, laptop or computer.
If you’d like any help with setting something up on your digital device, would like some advice and guidance on anything within this video, or want to find out more about our project just give us a call, email or join us at our remote digital café this Friday 11am to 1pm using Zoom. To book your place just get in touch.