6 ways to turn your garden into a nature lab

Learn more about your garden birds by recording what you see. 

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Sparrowhawk by Shaun Donockley

1 KEEP A DIARY

It’s amazing how much you can see and forget, from small interactions on your feeders to your local sparrowhawk’s favourite time to visit. Jotting notes will allow you to detect patterns developing over time.

2 WATCH THE WEATHER

Ever noticed a sudden abundance or strange absence of a species in your garden? By making notes and daily temperature readings you can correlate these shifts with weather patterns. Are mild winters changing what you see?

3 DEPLOY CAMERAS

Trailcams can capture amazing bird behaviour, reveal how often different species visit, and identify any culprits, such as cats, having an adverse effect on your avian visitors. Also switch on nestbox cameras to look for roosting birds.

4 WORK OUT BIRDS’ ROUTINES

Try to establish your garden’s patterns of occupation. Which birds start foraging first each morning, and is this affected by the weather or a neighbour’s security light coming on? Species with better vision tend to forage earlier, but check to see if any birds ‘break the rules’, such as a late-rising robin.

5 SEE INDIVIDUALS, NOT JUST SPECIES

Once you’ve identified the species of bird in your garden, the next step is identifying individuals. Look for your dominant, resident blackbirds, territorial robins and any birds with feathers missing or abnormal plumage.

6 MAKE YOUR RECORDS COUNT

Your records pack the greatest punch when part of the national picture. The RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch each January and the BTO’s year-round Garden BirdWatch initiative allow you to pool your records with millions of other garden-owners. Also report cases of disease to the Garden Wildlife Health project. 

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