Calling all young citizen scientists! Our friends at the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) have commenced their annual Big Schools’ Bird Watch. Hurry, because schools have until 2 February 2020 to register, and results can be submitted any time until 21 February. Plus, the RSBP will share the results so you can see how your school is contributing to their scientific research.
The UK has many interesting bird species from the tiny Goldcrest which is just 9cm long, to the UK’s largest bird of prey, the White-tailed eagle which has a wingspan of up to 2.4m! Fancy yourself a nature detective on the lookout for the UK’s most interesting birds? Here are some fascinating facts about following our feathered friends and helpful hints to get you started.
What is a birdwatcher called?
If you’ve sat in a park or stared out of a window and watched birds fluttering around, you’re definitely a birdwatcher. Birds are fascinating animals and many people enjoy watching them. Birdwatching is a peaceful easy hobby and you can start it today at home in your garden, in your local park, when you’re walking in the city, or better yet when you’re out in the woods.
Some people take birdwatching a lot more seriously and they call themselves birders. These citizen scientists know their Robins from their Sparrows! They enjoy spending time spotting, observing and listening to these feathered creatures. They may make detailed notes, take photos and travel long distances – even around the world – to observe birds in the wild.
Scientists who study birds are called ornithologists. They collect scientific information, study birds in detail, and play an important role in protecting our bird populations.
What do you need to watch birds?
The best equipment to observe birds are your eyes and ears. Watching birds through a window or heading out into the garden or your local park is quick, easy and free. All you need to do is choose a quiet place, sit very still, and observe what’s going on around you. Look up at the birds in the trees. Are they different colours? Notice if some are larger than others.
Binoculars are a birder’s most important piece of equipment and can make a big difference when you’re watching small animals. Our Geosafari® Jr Kidnoculars® have been designed especially for young children – even toddlers. They’re easy to use and let kids see at 2x magnification. (Mums and dads, Kidnoculars have focus-free, comfortable eyepieces specifically designed for small children’s pupillary distance, a durable design and a breakaway neck strap for safety.)
Primary Science® Big View Binoculars let young explorers see faraway objects up close at 6x magnification. This real working science tool does exactly what a grown-up scientist’s binoculars do and are suitable for young adventurers aged 3-7.
Older explorers will love GeoSafari® Compass Binoculars. Great for budding scientists aged 5-10, take them along on a camping trip, wilderness travel or simply a trip to the park. With these easy-grip, durable real working binoculars, you’ll be able to see objects at 4x magnification. Plus, it includes a compass so you can practise map reading, orienteering and even make notes about the location of the birds you’ve spotted!
When you’re watching birds, think about what they sound like. Each bird species not only looks unique, but sounds unique, and birders often know birds by sound as well as sight. Our GeoSafari® Jr. Kidnoculars® Extreme™ let you hear what you see with earpieces that amplify sound so you can watch birds, and listen to their calls and songs.
Why not check out more of our excellent range of fun, easy-to-use and educational Bird Watching tools?
How do I attract birds to my garden?
January might be the middle of winter, but there are lots going on in nature. The days are slowly getting longer, and birds become bolder as they head out and look for food to keep them going during the cold months. Entice them to your garden with tasty bird treats you can make at home.
The easiest way is to put out birdseed in a bird feeder. You can also have a go at making a birdseed cake. Here’s a video from the Royal Horticultural Society that shows you how – it’s quick and easy and will be ready for your bird restaurant in a few hours. All you need is lard, birdseed and a few other items you likely have in your kitchen. Ask a grownup to help you with the difficult parts.
Birds love fruit and you can make a quick and easy apple bird feeder using a soft apple and unshelled sunflower seeds. Download the instructions from the RSPB here. You’ll need a soft apple, apple corer, unshelled sunflower seeds, string and short sticks – ask a grownup to help with coring and inserting the sticks. Or try your hand at making the RSPB’s super speedy bird cake recipe. You may not think mixing cheese, lard, raisins and seeds sounds tasty, but birds think it’s lovely!
Birds don’t all eat the same things, so try various types of foods and seeds to see which different kinds of birds you can entice. Whichever tasty bird snacks you put out, remember to regularly check and top up often so birds don’t waste precious energy looking for food when there isn’t any.
Another way to attract birds is by having plants birds love to eat. Plants such as ivy and honeysuckle attract insects, while others like holly and sunflowers produce berries and seeds birds like to eat.
How will I remember which birds I’ve seen?
Just like a real scientist, the best way to remember which birds you’ve seen is to write them down. Make notes about their size, colours and call. Are they small or large? Do they have bright colours? Ornithologists keep detailed notes about what they’ve seen and heard when observing birds. You can start your scientific notes by asking your parents or teachers to download and print out these worksheets from the RSPB.
- Big School Bird Watch worksheet for under-fives
- Survey sheet with digits to 10
- Survey sheet with tens frame
- Blank survey sheet
Do you have a tasty recipe that brings interesting birds to your garden? Leave a comment below and share your recipe.