THE BLOG

Keeping an Eye on Our Feathered Friends

23/01/2014 11:10 GMT | Updated 24/03/2014 09:59 GMT

I'm no expert but the very wet and mild winter that we're having must be very confusing for our feathered friends. Their biological clocks will have started to tick early as they will be thinking that we're heading towards the first day of spring rather than being stuck still in the middle of winter.

That's the beauty of nature: you don't need to be Sir David Attenborough to understand how the weather is affecting the natural world. You just need to look as you go about your daily routine or tune into the sounds of the season to get a sense of what is happening all around you.

Like many people I've rediscovered the joy of nature through my kids. I've always had a nascent interest but having two very curious children opened wide my eyes to the wonder and magic of nature. They helped to re-light my curiosity: seeing the vitality of the species that call our garden, neighbourhood and favourite places home. And the species that hog the limelight in gardens or green spaces are birds.

Their song, their movement and their connection to the passing of the seasons mean that birds are a key and very visual part of our relationship with nature. You don't have to look very far to see them or wait very long to hear them. Their flight paths and feeding stations mean that they cross our path on a regular basis, whether taking advantage of feeders in gardens of perching in trees in parks.

Now I have to make an admission. I'm not a very good bird watcher. I can probably identify a reasonable number of species from sight but my range isn't that good when listening to bird song. And yet this doesn't stop me enjoying the soundtrack they provide for my journey to work or watching them in flight above my garden.

Sometimes I wonder if our connection with nature, as a nation, has faltered because of the slight embarrassment that we feel at not being that hot on the identification of species. It can feel slightly awkward for a parent if your children ask you what something is and you haven't got a clue. And yet it doesn't really matter: the resources are out there to help us learn about wildlife whether through a well-thumbed book or one of the great apps available to download - something the brilliant new Wild Network is trying to fix.

The beauty of the Big Garden Bird Watch, run by the RSPB, is that it gives you the perfect opportunity to learn about the birds that call your garden home. Spending time observing the birds in your garden not only helps us get a better understanding of any long term trends but can make the experience of looking out of your windows a richer one.

Getting to know the back story of some of the birds found in your garden is a great way into finding out more about the wildlife footprint of your garden. They'll be the insects that they feed on, the trees that they like to perch on and the other creatures that share these spaces with them. Before you know it you'll have built up a pretty good picture of the comings and goings of the nature in your backyard.

It also shows the importance of gardens as green spaces for nature to thrive - as soon as you open your front or back door you're connecting with the natural world. The loss of habitat, impact of extreme weather and the ongoing challenges around climate change means that wildlife needs all of the help that it can get and we have a really important role to play. We need to be aware of what is around us and I know from my own experience that nature is a great way to recharge my batteries.

So if you do one thing for nature this weekend get involved with the Big Garden Bird Watch. It only takes an hour and it could be the start of a magical journey of discovery. Taking part in a wildlife survey like this (there are loads of different surveys happening all year for a whole range of species) is a simple and easy way to get your kids excited and connected wildlife. You don't have to travel far (if you don't have a garden maybe do the survey with friends or family) and the kids will love finding out more about the birds in their own backyard.

The Big Garden Bird Watch happens this weekend (25-26 January) - https://www.rspb.org.uk/birdwatch/