I grew up in suburban Manchester and loved watching the birds in our garden. There were blackbirds, song thrushes, robins, blue tits, great tits and lots and lots of house sparrows and starlings. My parents still live in the same house and the garden is still full of birds. The species have changed though, there are now lots of goldfinches (attracted by the nyger seeds my parents put out for them) and very recently redpolls have started visiting in some number (also attracted to the nyger seeds). Also there are a lot more crows these days, including the occasional jay and lots of magpies. House sparrows have declined (as they have across most of the UK) though last time I visited, there were lots of house sparrows, I hadn't seen so many there since I was growing up. My parents always take part in the Big Garden Birdwatch, but often complain that the most interesting species don't turn up that day!
As an adult, I have mostly lived without a proper garden. When I lived in Malawi we had bougainvillea growing over our verandah and a small vegetable patch outside under a papaya tree. A fish eagle lived in a tree behind our garden and several birds visited, including a beautiful kingfisher who must have lost its way from the nearby Lake Malawi (though it wasn't a pied kingfisher, which was the prevelant lake species, in fact I never found out what species it was). Also in Malawi, though in someone else's garden, I saw the only hoopoe I've ever seen (though there was a rumour when I was a student that a hoopoe visited Edinburgh every summer).
Where we live in Edinburgh there's a pretty bush in front of the garden where a dunnock skulks, sometimes joined by a robin. Behind our building there is a shared backgreen with a vegetable plot, some well looked after gardens and some bramble patches. Some of the neighbours put out bird feeders. I've seen several species out there, robins, blue tits, song thrushes and dunnocks. One Christmas Day 50 fieldfares appeared from nowhere and took over the whole backgreen then next day had disappeared again. In summer, swifts constantly fly about over the nearby roofs.
Our backgreen has several problems from the point of view of the Big Garden Birdwatch:
a) we can't see the area from our flat
b) there's no pleasant sitting area in the backgreen
c) there's no part of the backgreen that has unrestricted views over the whole of the area
d) one of the neighbours who lives in one of the blocks that also uses the backgreen has a habit of coming out into his (very poorly looked after) garden whenever I appear and standing there, with his fierce dog, until I leave. This is off putting (to say the least!)
But if like me you don't really have a garden for the Big Garden Birdwatch, you can still join in. Just go along to your local park and record the birds you see there. It's fun, good exercise and you'll be helping the RSPB to keep up to date records of birds in the UK.
As ever, text in red contains hyperlinks that take you to other webpages where you can find out more.
You need to get together with any interested neighbours and do something positive with your back green. It should be possible to create a pleasant sitting area. If there is already a vegetable patch, that suggests that some of the other residents who share the garden at least have an interest in utilising it. We have a similar-ish situation at our new flat: the large garden is shared between many flats on two streets, and is just a big field criss-crossed with washing lines. I hope it will be possible maybe to create ‘zones’ in the garden, for growing fruit and veg., for just sitting, for children to play etc., but we’ll need to get together with other residents and agree on something which will satisfy everybody. It may be quite a challenge, but I imagine that Dig For Victory Edinburgh will be able to make some suggestions as to how to go about things. None of this would help for this year’s Big Garden Birdwatch, but perhaps could improve things for future years.
I've sent this link off to a friend in England. She loves birds and may already know about it. But she's going to be limited to home for a while later this month, and has a wonderful garden. It would be a great activity for her!
Just go along to your local park and record the birds you see there.
I tend to treat city parks as if they were a kind of backyard anyway :) There's no green around my apartment building, so I like to go to local parks. But it's a good suggestion for bird-watching assuming there aren't too many people around who are liable to make noise and scare the birds away. Because then only the pigeons tend to stick around.
Well, good for you to try anyway! How annoying of the neighbor with the dog! Here in the USA, the Cornell Lab of ornithology does the GREAT BACKYARD BIRD COUNT in February on President's day weekend for 4 days. I always participate in that!
Howard, thought I'd already commented on this. our backgreen is part of the Backgreens Initiative (aka Dig for Victory) but there are issues over who owns the land and lots of neighbours didn't want to join in so there's only a small part of the area that has become communal and that's dominated by one flat who dig up anything anyone else plants. So my experience of Dig for Victory has been entirely negative.
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