Watch the Birdie
The annual Big Garden Birdwatch takes place again at the end of the month. Organised by the RSPB, the very first Bird watch took place in1979 when junior members where asked to count the birds in their gardens, all at the same time, so the RSPB could work out what the UK’s top 10 most common garden birds were.
Biddy Baxter – then editor of Blue Peter – liked the idea so much that she featured the survey on one of the programmes and as a result, 34,000 forms were submitted. It then became an annual event and in 2001, adults were allowed to join in too.
Today, with over half a million people now regularly taking part, coupled with almost 40 years worth of data, Big Garden Birdwatch allows the RSPB to monitor trends and understand how birds are doing.
While some changes in bird numbers can seem scary – we’ve lost more than half our house sparrows and some three-quarters of our starlings – it isn’t all doom and gloom. Since Birdwatch began blue tit numbers have risen by 20 per cent and the woodpigeon population has increased by a whopping 800 per cent.
Joining in with Big Garden Birdwatch is simple and enjoyable – and a great excuse to watch your garden birds. Simply request your guide from the website www.rspb.org.uk/Birdwatch – due to the high demand, they currently only have download packs available but are hoping to be able to provide hard copies too.
If you are interested, here is their simple step by step guide:
Choose a good place to watch from for an hour from 27-29 January 2018. Which window gives you the best view? Make sure it’s comfy and you have the essentials within easy reach – a nice, hot drink and your favourite biscuits – and somewhere to jot down what you see. On the website we’ve got a nifty counting tool to help you keep track of what you’ve seen.
If you haven’t got a garden that’s no problem. Just pop down to your local park or green space and join in there.
Relax and watch the birds for an hour.
Count the maximum number of each species you see at any one time. For example, if you see a group of three house sparrows together and later another two, and after that another one, the number to submit is three. That way, it’s less likely you’ll double-count the same birds.
Go back to the Big Garden Birdwatch website and tell them what you’ve seen. Or use a paper form. It’s FREE to post back. All the details you need are on their website – so go on, make your count, count!
Plot on the Landscape
At the end of last year good friend and radio 2’s Allotmenteer, Terry Walton and I compiled a Charity calendar called, Plot on the Landscape. We have raised monies for MIND CYMRU, Prostate Cymru and Bobath and really appreciate your support. We have a few calendars left and would like to clear the decks (to make way for the seed catalogues!) and also to raise a few more quid for the charities – and we do look rather radishing and hap-pea! So if you haven’t got a 2018 calendar yet, or know a friend or colleague who needs on please order your copy at www.terryandlynne.com
I spent last weekend clearing the flowerbeds at home from fallen leaves and old herbaceous foliage in order to let the snowdrops take centre stage. They look so delicate and serene with their pure white bowed heads and yet have wonderfully reinforced leaf tips to help them penetrate ice and snow if they need to.
I also love watching my bees visit the early blooms. Snowdrop pollen is bright orange and the bees reverse out with their little pollen baskets full of the orange ‘dust’, making them very noticeable as they work the flowerbeds. It is thought that the flowerheads are bowed in order to keep the pollen dry, as there are so few pollinators around so early in the year.
Most types of snowdrops propagate via division of the underground bulb and if you want to increase your displays it is best to dig them up, divide and replant as soon as they finish flowering. You don’t need to do this, they will be quite happy spreading naturally but if you do want to populate other areas of the garden, do it whilst the bulbs are still ‘in the green’. Don’t waste your time separating the single bulbs, just break them into clusters of half a dozen or so and plant these mini-clumps about a foot apart, and at the same depth as they were growing before.
I have often heard that the best way to display cut snowdrops indoors is to put the little vase of flowers on a mirror tile so that you can see the pretty interior, or underside, of the bloom. Personally, I don’t bring them indoors as folklore has it they bring bad luck in with them! Well, it’s bad luck for the bees for a start …