Saturday, 6 February 2016

A Week of Big Bird Watches

Three different bird watch events in four days: Big Schools' Bird Watch, Big Garden Bird Watch and Big Castle Bird Watch.

RSPB Big School's Bird Watch - 28th January

This is the fourth consecutive year that I have run the Big Schools' Bird Watch at my school. Our bird watch this year, in numbers, looked like this: 2 teachers, 70 pupils and 99 birds. Our results looked like this:

It may not have been a record year for the number of birds seen, but it was certainly a record for the number of pupils who wanted to get involved! It was great to have so many individuals, most of which did have a genuine interest in the bird watch and nature. However, a few conversations I had with pupils and staff struck a cord with me, and with an article in the February issue of BBC Wildlife Magazine. Why are we so blasé about 'common' species? Or even about locally common species. With my school being so close to farmland, we do get a lot of house sparrows in the local area. Very few of the individuals I spoke to had any idea that sparrow populations have declined so spectacularly on a national level. Hopefully, through the assemblies and conversations I have taken part in, this message may have got through to some. I do think that the Big Schools' Bird Watch was a positive experience for all the pupils that took part, even if some of them did get a little chilly. Hopefully, they all learnt something too.

RSPB Big Garden Bird Watch - 30th January

We carried out our Big Garden Bird Watch on Saturday lunch time, it was a bright and cool day in Norwich and it was nice to watch the birds visiting from the comfort of our flat. It was a busy hour, especially for the starlings! We had RSPB 'bird cakes', 'super suet balls' and mixed seed on offer. This seems to be the best combination of food for attracting a relatively wide range of species to our patch. Since spring last year we have had a healthy number of green finches visiting, I was particularly pleased about this, especially due to their decline in numbers due to the arrival of trichomoniasis in recent years. I am also excited to have finally attracted a regular gang of long tailed tits, one of my favourite British birds, although they were not representing their usual number in this set of data. Our flock of starlings are regulars and, although they take over the entire feeding station when they arrive (intimidating the local wood pigeons), I love watching their squabbling and occasionally comedic antics. They are such beautiful and overlooked birds too, most people I have spoken to recently describe them as 'greedy' and aren't quite as enthusiastic about having them in their area.

The Big Castle Bird Watch - 31st January

I spent my afternoon on Sunday volunteering at the Big Castle Bird Watch; an event held at the Norwich Castle Museum and run by RSPB Strumpshaw Fen. There were lots of activities for the public to get involved with, all of them aimed at raising awareness of the natural world, the dangers wildlife faces, why people should take part in the Big Garden Bird Watch and why they should visit Strumpshaw Fen. My small part of the event was mostly spent encouraging younger children to dress up as a dragonfly and attempt to catch beanbags made into flies in a net. The idea was for them to dart around like a dragonfly would when hunting and give them an appreciation of how agile and maneuverable these amazing insects are. I'm not sure they all took this message away from the game, but they certainly had fun with it!

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