Time to go birding

It’s nearly time for the annual Big Garden Birdwatch and you can do your part to help assess the status of Britain’s birds.

Over the weekend of 28-30 January, around 1 million of us will take an hour to count the number of different species of birds that land on their patch. It is fun, informative, relaxing and it makes a valuable contribution to knowing how well our wildlife is doing.

You don’t need to be an expert and you can watch from your window, balcony, the garden or wander down to Streatham Common where the mixed habitat draws a wide range of birds and animals.

Some of The Vale residents took part last year, spotting a jay, robins and blackbirds. Common birds such as greenfinches and chaffinches saw their numbers fall last year, so all sightings are now very important. If you are new to bird watching, or want to team up, why not ask a fellow resident to join you? It’s also a great way to get younger family members involved.

If you are fortunate enough to have a bird feeder outside your window or on your balcony, here are a few handy things to know:  Depending on the type of feeder, sunflower hearts will be well received by tits, finches, robins and dunnocks and should create less mess than sunflower seeds still in their husks. Be warned though, birds are extremely clever and will waste as little energy as possible finding food in winter. They will know instantly from the weight of each seed which has the greatest nutrition and, if one falls short, they will drop it in favour of a fatter one. Inevitably, this means debris under the feeder which you should clear away both for aesthetics and hygiene. It is also important to regularly clean the feeder with hot, soapy water before re-filling. Birds can pick up serious diseases from feeders where bacteria breed and there is a particularly nasty one that is causing a serious decline in the numbers of greenfinches.

Don’t forget to record your sightings on the RSPB (Royal Society for Protection of Birds) website.

All the information you need to take part can be found here, including a bird identification sheet if you are not sure you can tell your blue tits from coal tits or dunnocks from a house sparrow!