Just in case you didn’t know, this weekend is the Big Garden Birdwatch, organised every year by the RSPB. Mr B and I are planning to participate once again this year even though we are pretty sure, going by previous
years, that it will all end in crushing disappointment.
The RSPB has sent us a colourful guide to help us plan our Birdwatch. This includes a helpful chart on
which we can record our sightings, with colourful pictures just in case we can’t tell our Robin from our Goldfinch. We have also been sent a recipe card, on one side of which is a recipe for Bird Cake (lard or suet mixed with bird seed, raisins and grated
cheese) and on the other the recipe for something called Birdwatch Bites, which we are encouraged to “enjoy with a cup of tea or coffee during your Birdwatch and feed any leftover sunflower seeds, apple and raisins to your birds.” It occurs to
me that I shall have to be careful which delicacy I feed to the birds and which to Mr B.
The main guide (“count the wildlife that’s counting on you”)
tells me that we will be among half a million people taking part next weekend. I have decided not to impart this information to Mr B who will doubtless argue that, given so many participants, nobody will notice our absence. I am, nevertheless, armed with interesting
statistics, such as the fact that starlings have declined by 79% since 1979 and song thrushes by around 70% over the same period. Little Jenny Wrens, however, have increased by 91% in England over the last ten years. I can believe this: once upon a time the
only place I saw a wren was on the back of a farthing. Which was, for younger readers of the Daily Blog, a coin of the realm in the Olden Days, though not as far back in time as the groat, I’ll have you know.
The guide includes a few inspirational quotes, just to motivate us. For example: “I was completely engrossed by the birds’ acrobatics for food, and felt the time spent watching was a great stress-buster. Wonderful!”
Or try this one for size: “What a pleasure: an hour with a cuppa and the beautiful birds.” It sounds just the ticket, now doesn’t it?
the moment Mr B and I settle down this weekend for our hour of birdwatching (having, it goes without saying, hung our home-made bird cakes from the branches of the trees and with a plate of delicious Birdwatch cookies nestling cosily on our knees) all the
feathered friends which generally frequent our garden will have gone AWOL, presumably seduced away by other birdwatchers who have bought more suet logs, made more, seedier bird cakes, scattered more mealworms and generally set out a more inviting feast than
I consult my friends on this thorny problem. The Lovely Linda, who leads our Birdy Group, tells me she waits until her resident woodpecker turns up in
her back garden and starts her Birdwatch Hour from then. This ensures that her return to the RSPB always scores on the interest factor. There’s nothing like a Great Spotted Woodpecker for extra Birdwatch Brownie Points.
Bas goes several steps further: he tells me he doesn’t actually worry about the whole “spend an hour watching the birds” business but simply writes down all the birds which usually
visit his garden and sends this in as his return. His approach, I can’t help thinking, would appeal no end to Mr B. Nor would I have to get my hands all sticky mixing bird seed, raisins and grated cheese into melted lard and filling yoghurt pots with
the resultant gunge.
But, hey, listen up: “Don’t worry if you don’t see anything over the hour, as it’s still really useful information
for us,” trills the Big Garden Birdwatch leaflet.
Tell that to the birds, why don’t you?