Get ready for BGBW

By Paul (originally posted to Flickr as IMG_0076.JPG) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
By Paul (originally posted to Flickr as IMG_0076.JPG) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
This weekend is the annual Big Garden Birdwatch.  BGBW has become a national institution and I love it.

I’ll be sitting down to stare out at my garden for an hour next Sunday.

The feeders are filled already.

Will the usual house sparrows, collared doves, blackbirds, robin and goldfinches flock to or shun my garden in the hour of reckoning? Will I spot a wintering blackcap – I quite often do in an hour of looking even though I hardly ever do in ‘real life busyness’?  Will a red kite fly over and will I decide it looked hard at my garden and count it?  Will the bullfinches that have been in next-door’s garden still be around and will they visit me? Will the cold weather drive reed buntings into the garden as it did last year but not during the critical hour? Will there be a wren? A dunnock?



17 Replies to “Get ready for BGBW”

  1. Looking forward to spending Saturday morning in my local park. (Sadly, my garden’s not really suitable for BGBW at the moment – maybe next year. Now if it was the Big Garden Fox Watch…) Expecting tits and pigeons, possibly a wren. If I’m really lucky, maybe a chaffinch.

  2. I am also really looking forward to the BGBW, good luck with the birds everyone. We got a pair of Lesser Redpolls last year and I am hoping that my Reed Buntings will still be around for the weekend.

    1. Findlay – good luck with that! I’ve never had redpolls in the garden – just a few siskins. But you never know what the hour and the day will bring.

  3. Well I just did a Big Seawatch in FREEZING cold weather as I cross the Channel to Jersey, didn’t see much apart from Brownsea Island which looks great, and shall be doing the garden watch from my mum’s garden which I’m hoping will turn up something different from my garden back home…but as one birder said “Channel Islands doesn’t count as UK, so the RSPB will not be interested”…is that true Mark?

  4. Mark you are fortunate that feeders filled now will last until the weekend; I am refilling mine every day so that all the feeding ports stay available. If I left them two days my army of squabbling Goldfiches would have them completely empty! We are high in the Cotswolds, with deep snow and very negative temperatures both day and night, so it is vital to keep the feeders full and the water thawed. I have a bruiser of a Fieldfare in residence at the moment who “sees off” all the Blackbirds who come anywhere near his cache of apples!

    Unfortunately we have to travel abroad to a funeral so I shall miss the BGBW and I shall also miss your lecture at Slimbridge on Friday evening Mark which, I was planning to attend – book in hand for autographing. I hope it is well attended and goes well.

  5. Is there any real purpose to the survey, it’s hardly scientific and to me seems to be just a gimmick promoted by the RSPB. My inbox has been filled to bursting point from emails from the RSPB over the last couple of weeks telling me of their offers on bird food “ready for the survey”, sure kids at schools are encouraged to take part, are schools open at weekends now? They’ve not be opened all week up here in Northumberland! Do the teachers and kids know what species are being viewed, sorry but the children should be sat at home playing X-box or whatever and leave the birding to us adults…

    1. Birdtogger – welcome and thank you for your comment. Your view is often expressed but I think it is overly cynical.

      The BGBW actually suggested things like the decline in song thrushes before the CBC highlighted it – not a bad record. It’s a long term record from a particular perspective. If you compare BGBW long term trends with CBC/BBS long term trends then they show the same sorts of changes. So let’s not be too sniffy about it, eh?

      Also, over half a million people take part – quite a boost to the army of nature lovers?

      Schools take part during, from memory, a week-long period. In the 30+ years of BGBW somebody did spot that many schools are shut at weekends.

      And yes, the RSPB recruits members through this event – hardly surprising or shocking really.

      Thanks again for your comment.

  6. LOL, well said Findlay….hmmm birdtoger from Northumberland not in favour of RSPB work? I think I might know your name or real name anyway. It’s just not kids you know BT who take part in the survey even my mum is starting to take interest and trust me thats a small miracle in itself. I know of at least one school that does open weekends, not directly for school, but as a creche like arrangement, I also know of three private schools that have “boarders” staying at weekends so yes they do open at weekend are they taking part, I hope so.
    Don’t like the survey, don’t take part, simple, just go back to your grumpy “grown up” birding and leave the fun for the younger birders out there.

  7. Have to agree with Birdtogger,in my opinion BGB is another of the RSPBs cons,this is intended to get members and nothing else.After BGB the RSPB forum will be choked up with names never before heard.
    Good luck to them I say as the more members the RSPB can muster up the merrier,just wish they would front up to the cons they use on lots of matters.
    Another one that does not bother me as we are happy to give them what is a really reasonable sub but the con is that if we let our membership lapse then rejoin via internet guess we would have at least £10 more in our pocket as new members get benefit of cheaper joining and a goodie thrown in.Not Bill Oddie I must add.

  8. I’m a bit baffled Dennis, you don’t have to be a member to do the BGBW you are aware of that?, will it increase the membership, probably, does that make it a con? Not sure on that, as surley if just one person who gets involved in the survey and then carried that passion for nature through their life then thats a positive result is it not? Personally I’m not a RSPB member, will I take part in the survey? Yes if I’m allowed to submit results for Jersey if not I shall have to find another excuse to stand watching my feeders for an hour instead of doing the hoovering or something.
    Finally you say about it being a con that you can get your “subs” cheaper if you let your membership expire then renew at a later date via the net-so why don’t you do that then? Though beaware you might just get Bill Oddie turn up at your doorstep, that’s a CON! 🙂

  9. Douglas—look where I said we were happy to give them what is a really reasonable sub—–surely that is already the answer.
    It is obviously a dubious tactic to give loyal members a worse deal than new members however but of course repeated by many firms but also the RSPB pays company’s to ring members and some say unfair pressure used to get more money via extra donations over the phone.
    I certainly know you do not need to be a member to take part in BGB the con is the whole complete intention of BGB is to hope you then become a RSPB member which is as I said I am quite happy about as it succeeds remarkably well even though it is a big con.

  10. I must admit I’ve never carried out a BGW. I do contribute to BTO surveys however. I am less than convinced about any scientific rigour behind data gleaned from the BGW but if it gets schools and kids involved and interested in identifying, counting and recording birds then its doing a great job as far as I’m concerned.

  11. As to why I carry out “citizen science” for the BTO but not the RSPB, I guess I made a choice decades ago (BTO not RSPB) and sorta stick to that. (I think I’m glad I did too). Nothing more to it than that.

  12. Michael McCarthy, writing about BGBW in the The Independent, refers to “collard dove” as a relatively common garden bird – surprising, given the rarity of collards.

    I stopped buying peanuts for birds a few years ago when the price reached £2500/t (it’s now £4,750/t in my local SCATS) and I haven’t seen a GSW in the garden since. I have however rediscovered my Fabulous Fat Balls which have been in a tub in the shed – they are now hanging from a hook and keeping tits warm.

    I saw a woodcock in broad daylight this morning, flying towards me up a track at zero feet before it swerved to avoid the car and sped off across the fields. There was a pheasant shoot going through its wet woodland territory.

    Buzzards have taken to standing on top of steaming manure heaps – I guess they like warm feet. So do I, which is why I shall be staying in until all the snow, or my Bailie Nicol Jarvie, has gone.

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