On the Wing by Gary Atkins

on the wing
on the wing

Did you get binoculars and bird guide out last month for the Big Garden Birdwatch – and have you fired your results in to the RSPB? Next Friday is the deadline, so get cracking ...

I e-mailed my meagre results, and though I haven’t always, I will try to participate whenever possible in future, because in recent years I’ve come to realise such surveys are not just a gimmick for membership or a bit of fun for the kids.

They are an excellent way of engaging a huge number of people – from all corners of the UK – in monitoring wildlife and using their findings for long-term conservation.

Some birds are on the rise, some on the wane, and the only way we can track the underlying trends, and take positive action accordingly, is by recording when and where they occur – thereby adding to a rich fund of valuable data.

People with notebooks at the ready are often called ‘anoraks’. Indeed, some scribblers wear anoraks, though my outdoor garb is more often a sweatshirt and a gilet with plenty of pockets – all the better for carrying my bird book, glasses, map and notebook ... which I guess confirms my anorak status!

But frankly, I don’t care what people think – because I know that by recording wildlife with not just the RSPB and other national bodies like the BTO (British Trust for Ornithology), but also county authorities such as the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust, Derbyshire Ornithological Society and even the distinctly local Carsington Bird Club, I am adding fine detail to a big picture that allows experts to gauge how things are and what changes are taking place.

Organisations right up to government departments can then draw from this deep well of information to assess how new projects and developments may affect the natural world – sometimes even individual endangered species – and add meaningful context when setting economic factors against conservation issues.

Only by understanding the impact of a new airport, housing estate or the latest wind turbine project can authorities make informed judgments.

So yes, have fun with the Big Garden Birdwatch: such surveys encourage people, particularly youngsters, to have a go at nature spotting. But remember that recording your sightings – not just rarities – is actually useful.

Find out what the RSPB, BTO, DOS, DWT and CBC do and why information is important to them – for you really can make a difference simply by enjoying a local walk, jotting down what you see and telling someone about it.