According to the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), 38 million birds have been lost from UK skies in the last 50 years. The Big Garden Birdwatch is the largest citizen science wildlife survey in the UK and provides the RSPB with a vital picture of how our garden birds are faring in the face of the current nature and climate emergency. Taking part is simple, those involved record the birds they see in their garden or local park over the course of one hour between Friday 27 – Sunday 29 January and report the results.

The College’s exceptional 42-acre site benefits from a wide variety of planting and wildlife habitats; from structured borders to hedgerows and woodland, providing the ideal location for spotting wildlife. The College is also working to better understand the biodiversity on-site, so the grounds and gardens team have signed up to take part on Friday 27 January and are seeking the support of current students, Fellows, staff and alumni in our community to help them do it!

Read on to find out more about the two survey areas and sign-up to take part.

A haven for birds

The grounds and garden team are aiming to undertake the survey in two different College site locations on the day. The first area is the garden of 68 Storey’s Way, one of our postgraduate accommodation houses. As explained by the College’s Grounds and Gardens Team Leader, Kath, “the garden of 68 is a domestic garden – mostly grass with an established, dense shrub border along the boundary providing an ideal nesting environment. There are also apple trees, some conifers and a lovely ornamental cherry tree.” Fat balls have been hung by the team in the cherry and apple trees and in a hazel and a cedar – away from the reach of potential predators in the hedge. The team are also putting a bird bath in the garden and a feeding station with different bird food for different birds to encourage as many as possible into that area in advance of the birdwatch day. The area was selected as an ideal spot by the grounds and gardens team, as Kath explains:

The hedgerow has several plants with berries and seeds for birds such as aster seedheads, and ivy, hawthorn and stinking iris berries – all great natural sources of bird food. The garden is in a secluded sheltered area and is relatively quiet which should make it a good spot for birdwatching. As part of one of our wildlife projects a motion sensor camera was put in the garden – a fox, an owl and lots of squirrels and birds were seen and during the daytime when we are working we sometimes see muntjac deer, and a fox!

The team have also added a large log pile, a bug hotel, five bird boxes and native bulbs and wildflowers in to the space. The five bird boxes have been placed in the cedar, cherry, hazel, Norway spruce and an apple.

The second birdwatching location will be at the top of the field near the chapel which the grounds and gardens team call the copse. As Kath explains, this are is akin to a small woodland and the decision they’ve taken is not to put any extra food or water out for the birds, but to see what birds might naturally be there without any human intervention. The woodland area contains large oak and ash and has hazel and field maple around the edge along with other tree species that the team have added in recent years.

How to take part

The birdwatches will take place between 8.30 and 11.00 in the morning. All those interested in taking part are invited to come along to either of the locations being surveyed to help spot birds and wildlife. You can drop by for five minutes or stay for the full hour! Members of the grounds and gardens team will be on-hand to help record what is seen and answer any questions. If it’s raining they will be under umbrellas! And there are existing benches in those areas to sit on during the hour. Anyone who joins the survey will get a free hot drinks voucher to exchange at the Buttery!

Please sign-up using the form below to indicate your preferred Birdwatch time and location and receive more information. The times and locations are also noted below.

Sign-up to take part

  • 8.30 – 9.30am: The garden at 68 Storey’s Way
  • 10.00 – 11.00am: ‘The copse’ area close to the chapel at the top of the sports field

What might I see?

What might I see?

If you’d like to find out more about the birds we hope to spot on the day you can visit www.rspb.org.uk/birds-to-spot. There is also lots of information on how the event will work here:

Taking Part in Big Garden Birdwatch – RSPB

The top ten birds spotted in 2022 were the House sparrow, Blue tit, Starling, Woodpigeon, Blackbird, Robin, Goldfinch, Great tit, Magpie and Chaffinch. However, even though House sparrows ranked top in 2022 it’s vital we continue to look out for sparrows as there are far fewer around now. The population has declined so much that they are on the UK Red List for birds – any further declines would be devastating.

Blue tit photo credit: Stuart Rye