Watch the birdie

A lot of people are going to be doing a lot of bird-watching this weekend as part of the RSPB's annual Big Garden Birdwatch. The aim of the event is to help form a complete picture of the fortunes of garden birds. Last year, the top three to be spotted were the house sparrow, blue tit and starling.

FEELING BLUE: The cheeky blue tit is under pressure.

This year, however, that cheeky chappy at number two could well miss out on even a top-ten place because blue tit numbers appear to have taken a hammering during last year’s wet summer. Normally during the new year, hordes of these cheerful little birds flock to British gardens.

And while they are waiting their turn at the bird table, many will do the gardener a favour by rummaging around and removing any juicy insect pests (and their eggs) they find. The birds are famed for their skill – they can cling to fragile branches and hang upside down as they search for food.

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Big Garden Birdwatch is one of the first indicators to show how well UK birds have fared during the previous breeding season and winter, with more than half a million people taking part each year and more than 30 years of data.

The RSPB says it is important to know how our birds are faring. With so many people stepping up and taking part in Big Garden Birdwatch, if a pattern emerges, the charity wants to know.

The obvious way to attract helpful birds into the garden is to provide them with a steady source of nutritious food and fresh water. Leaving seedheads to overwinter on plants will encourage certain birds to visit.

And to make it a real home from home, grow plants that will provide shelter.

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