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Big Garden Birdwatch 29-31 January thumb

Big Garden Birdwatch 29-31 January

For a lot of us, particularly here in Yorkshire, the weather so far this year has not exactly encouraged us to get outside. Whether it be rain or snow and ice, staying indoors often seems like the best option. 

I would imagine though that a lot of us are staying inside more these days in any case. Whether it be sat at a desk all day, or staring at a computer screen for hours on end, life is probably for a lot of us more sedentary than before. 

This doesn’t do us any good though, both physically and mentally. Inactivity and the associated effects can disrupt our sleep, mood, and other rhythms. So what can we do to get out and about?

At the end of January is the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch. This annual event, from 29-31 January is all about lifting our eyes from our screens and out into our gardens and green spaces.

The 20:20:20 rule encourages us to look at something 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds, every 20 minutes. This short and simple activity helps us to prevent eye strain. 

But why not combine it with watching and counting the birds in your garden? Our gardens are home to passing migrants and permanent residents looking for food and shelter. 

Watching birds, as with all activities that involve nature are good for our mental health and help us to reconnect with our natural roots. And by making a log of the birds you see (or don’t see, that’s just as important) and submitting this to the RSPB, you are directly helping conservation efforts. Every year of data collection helps the RSPB to understand the patterns and trends in species populations, and try to help those species in need.

If you’re not familiar with birds and identifying them, there’s no better time to get acquainted; and we’ll help, with a quick description quiz!


A medium sized garden bird, I spend a lot of my time on the ground looking for my favourite food, worms. I am black all over with dark legs, a prominent orange ring around my eye and an orange/yellow beak.


I tend to travel in flocks of 5-10 birds, all of which are twittering away. You’ll often see me in bushes, or flitting between cover. I’m streaky all over my back with colours of brown, grey and black, a buff underside, pink legs, and a heavy beak.


I’m often solitary but occasionally seen with other birds. Small, but very noisy, my song is rather beautiful. I’m yellow underneath, with a blue/grey flash on my wing, a black tail, white face, and blue crown. 


I have a particular association with Christmas. Small bird with a bright red breast, brown back and white underneath. If you get out in the garden I might perch on the handle of your fork or spade. 


I’m bigger than birds 2-4 but smaller than bird number one. Found in large flocks, and often perform acrobatics in the sky at dusk. At first glance I might appear brown or black all over, but I actually have flecks of green, purple, and yellow running through my feathers. 


So have a go, lift your eyes away from your screen, and out into green spaces near you. And don’t forget to submit your results to the RSPB to aid them in their research. 

If you enjoy watching the birds in your garden, don’t just stop there either. RSPB reserves are to be found all around the country, with helpful staff, binocular hire, and resources to help you identify even more birds. 

Take a walk in your local area, better yet, across the fields, through the woods, or down by the stream. Leave off your headphones and watch out for movement, and listen in for birdsong and see what you might discover. It might bring you some inspiration. 

Don’t forget as well to send to us your pictures, tag @opencollegearts on Instagram, or @openartscollege on Facebook. 

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Posted by author: Craig Dewis
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