Suburban Safari: RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch 

Suburban Safari: RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch 

by Katie Isham.

At the risk of ruffling some feathers, this Suburban Safari includes minimal movement. In fact, it’s best to stay as still as possible for the duration. You may be permitted a twitch or two. 

When was the last time you spent a solid hour in your garden? I know it’s not really the season to be spending time sat resolutely in the British climate, but give it a go this weekend. It might be nice to spot those signs of springtime optimism. Bundle up in your cosiest layers, dig out the deckchair and fill up your flask to get ready for some birdwatching. 

This weekend is the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch. We members of the Great British public are the eyes and ears on the ground. Spend an hour in your garden. If you don’t have a garden, a balcony, a window, a doorstep onto the park will do the job – wing it if you must. However, the RSPB want us to keep safe so staying close to home is in order this year. Settle in and wait for the visitors; it’s time to log all the birds using your garden as a free buffet. 

By monitoring the lives of our feathered friends around us, and then recording those findings with the RSPB, we can be part of a movement, and who doesn’t like feeling like they’re making a difference? The results you submit will go towards mapping trends which can flag up problems: the first step in flying into conservation action. 

Performing a good deed such as this will give you a sense of ornithological civic pride. But this birdwatching lark is also quite fun. Maybe not “fun” in an adrenalin-pumping, water-flume on a tropical island after a few mojitos flavour of “fun”, but this has its own distinct charm. And I’ve become rather fond of the mild type of fun. 

The world outside is angry right now; life is loud and scary, driving fear into our hearts and making us cower at home. So I say let’s not cower. Let’s cosy up in our own nests and enjoy some tranquillity in the garden. I heard some advice about changing the mindset of being “stuck at home” to being “safe at home”, so why not evolve again to “safe in the garden”?  

An hour of peace, in the fresh air, privy to the dawn chorus or as the sun sets (choose any hour of the weekend), with enough blankets to build a fort and your favourite snacks to hand as you reconnect with nature in your own safe space sounds like a bloody good idea to me. 

I’m not sure what birds will visit, but the anticipation is palpable. I have a soft spot for a robin that seems to follow me, so I have high hopes of a sighting. Maybe I won’t see anything more exotic than the blackbirds obsessing over the berries in the front garden, or the gang of local hoodlum magpies. But imagine if one of the white-tailed eagles from the Isle of Wight fancies a day out in Southampton and happens to pop by my garden for a swift nibble of nuts and I’m not there to greet them? I’m not taking those chances. You’ve got to be in it to win it right? 

Even if I don’t “win” a rare sighting, I might have a quiet moment with my favourite robin, and at the very least I’ll be treated to an hour of calming outdoor contemplation whilst staying safe at home. 




Cost: Free entrance to your garden. Cost of snack supplies for both you and the feathered visitors. 

Accessibility: Accessible from your own domain; can be accessed in your pyjamas if that’s your preference. 

Facilities: Probably toilet and refreshment facilities very close to hand.