Birdwatching, mental health and conservation: Rob Swift on taking part in the Big Garden Birdwatch 2021

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Blue Tit on a bird feeder
A Blue Tit. Credit: Wikimedia

The RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch is coming on the 29th January, looking to get new people interested in their local wildlife. Birmingham Eastside spoke to Rob Swift, of the West Midland Bird Club, about the Big Garden Birdwatch, and the difference it can make.

Bringing in the next generation

The Big Garden Birdwatch is an important event for bringing in interest to birdwatching and local wildlife.

As it is aimed at families and younger people, it can spark a lifelong interest.

“It sets the seeds for a lot of people, a little bit of interest. It stays with them; it keeps coming back in later life.”

Another merit of the Birdwatch is its effectiveness and simplicity, it doesn’t require hours upon hours of research or preparation, it can be done quickly as it only takes an hour.

“As well as providing the data of the RSPB in regards to garden birds and the populations. I think also some people can get involved in it, as it’s a simple thing to do.”

Rob also added that it is satisfying for those involved. The participants can see the fruits of their time.

“Within so many weeks or months, the RSPB produces a report that everybody can see. So, they’ve got the satisfaction that they contributed to it.”

After piquing the interest of those new to birdwatching or observing their local wildlife, there can be some fantastic knock-on effects.

Long term benefits

The Big Garden Birdwatch can over a number of years, paint a picture of the birdlife in gardens across the country.

This can help to reveal patterns of which species are thriving, and which aren’t fairing quite as well.

Rob quoted the Goldfinch as an example of a bird that has had a swell in numbers in recent years.

The House Sparrow however, has been in decline.

“House Sparrows, they were common as anything. And now the populations the last few decades have slipped a lot.”

A House Sparrow
A House Sparrow Credit: Wikimedia

It is patterns like this, that make creating interest in bird and wildlife important.

Greater awareness of local fauna, created by projects such as the Big Garden Birdwatch, can spur people to act, to protect and help what lives around them, says Rob.

“As a country as a whole, we’re quite nature depleted compared to a lot of countries. And it’s very easy just to keep going along thinking, ‘things are okay’, or ‘it’s the norm’ when it’s actually not.

“It’s an educational thing really. More people notice things, the more we get involved and more want to do something positive about it.”

But Birdwatching and taking notice of what nature is around you, doesn’t just help the animals. It can provide some calm in an uncertain world

Positive for all involved

The UK is in its third national lockdown. Mental health is a topic that been prevalent when talking of the negatives of lockdown life. Taking time to stop, and look at the world and nature can bring an element of much needed calm.

“Sometimes you can sort of, lose a bit of perspective, lose a bit of track of who we are in the world.

“It has a calming effect, because you’re looking, and you tend to forget about your worries and your concerns, because for that time you’re doing it, your mind is on something else.

“It’s not a thing where it’s pressurized, there’s a calmness about it.”

This shows how Birdwatching can not only help the wildlife, but the people taking part.

How you can do your bit

One way to contribute to your local birdlife, is through feeding. Putting feed out for birds doesn’t just bring birds to your garden, it also allows them to thrive.

“(Feeding) can be very important you know, especially like for instance, the weather we’ve had recently, the cold snap that we had.

“You’re enabling those birds to perhaps, see themselves through the winter, and also be in better condition going into the spring.”

For anyone just getting started, and just gaining an interest, the advice is…

“Don’t get bogged down with things, identification, or anything like that. The main thing is getting out there, and just starting to take notice of what’s around you.

“It can be done anywhere, whether you live in an urban area, a city, in the countryside. There’s something to see.”

A park
You can take part in the Big Garden Birdwatch from your local park too. Credit: Wikimedia

The Big Garden Birdwatch can be a starting point. Identification sheets and materials for younger Birdwatchers, can be found on the RSPB and West Midland Bird Club’s websites.

For all you need to know about the Big Garden Birdwatch, and how to get involved read this article from Birmingham Eastside.

Visit the Birmingham Eastside Twitter or Instagram for some birds to look out for in your garden.

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