Enjoy a flying visit this weekend

Over the last few years, if we mentioned the word tweet most of you would think of followers, trends and #norfolkwinter (we hope!) sooner than bird noises.

The chaffinch is one of many birds you might spot during the Big Garden Birdwatch this weekend.

The chaffinch is one of many birds you might spot during the Big Garden Birdwatch this weekend. Credit: Andy Hay

But that could all change this weekend, when birdwatchers will be out in their thousands. This winter’s been a particularly good one for twitchers in Norfolk, with birds flying into back gardens in search of food because of the cold weather (keep reading to the bottom for more on that…).

That’s why the RSPB in the East is expecting a bumper winter for bird spotting for their annual Big Garden Birdwatch. It’s just one of many events they’re putting on about our feathered friends this weekend, as they explain.

Every year for one weekend only, the RSPB hold their Big Garden Birdwatch, where people across the UK can take part in the world’s biggest wildlife survey, and once again we’d like you to be a part of it.

Last year 15,000 Norfolk residents went outside for a spot of twitching and it doesn’t matter whether you’re at home with the family, with classmates at school or with friends in the beer garden of the local pub; so long as there are birds around you can get involved in the Big Garden Birdwatch 2013.

The house sparrow was the most common bird seen in UK gardens last year. Here's a female enjoying a bit of grub. Credit: Ray Kennedy

The house sparrow was the most common bird seen in UK gardens last year. Here’s a female enjoying a bit of grub. Credit: Ray Kennedy

All you have to do to join in is spend one hour looking out for birds and count the highest number that land in your garden or school site at any one time. And if you’re worried that you might not know a chaffinch from a goldfinch then don’t worry, our Big Garden Birdwatch counting sheet puts pictures to the names.

It’ll also allow you to tick off the highest number of each type of bird you see while you’re out watching so it doesn’t matter whether you’re an experienced ornithologist or it’s the first time you’ve paid attention to the wildlife in your garden. Make sure you don’t just count the birds as you see them because you might be counting the same bird more than once. For further details of the types of bird you can expect to see, take a look here.

Once your hour’s up and you’ve tallied up all the birds you’ve seen, all you need to do is let us know. We’ll be putting up the form where you can tell us your results on our website from this weekend up until 15 February.

It doesn’t matter in the slightest if you don’t see as many birds as you thought you would, we use all the information you give us for our records and that allows us to see which birds are becoming less common so we can do our best to rectify this. So every bit of information you give us is helping the wildlife in your area. You do have to be 18 or over to send us your results but under-18s can of course take part in the birdwatching, they just need an adult to send off the form for them.

It doesn't matter how old you are (or what your binoculars are made from), anyone can get involved in the Big Garden Birdwatch. Credit: Caroline Offord.

It doesn’t matter how old you are (or what your binoculars are made of), anyone can get involved in the Big Garden Birdwatch. Credit: Caroline Offord.

And we know that learning about the creatures that live around us can spark a lifelong interest in nature for kids, so schoolchildren and teachers can do the same at school as part of Big Schools’ Birdwatch, which is running from now until 1 February. It’s not too late to get involved, so take a look here for more information.

It’s more than just one hour this weekend that you can get in touch with nature. We’ll also be holding our Wild Garden Weekend at the Forum in Norwich at 10am-4pm on Saturday and Sunday.

At the event you’ll be able to get tips from experts about how to spot and identify the wildlife in your back garden and ways you can make your garden a safe haven for wildlife. There will be stories and crafts in the Children’s Library on Sunday and bird box making, face painting, games and much more in the Forum atrium all weekend.

A photo of a starling taken last week in Watton. Credit: Chris & Angela Pye.

A photo of a starling taken last week in Watton. Credit: Chris & Angela Pye.

The Fusion screen at the Forum will also be showing footage and information about the birds in your garden and we’ve teamed up with Master Composters and Gardeners and Friends of the Earth to provide some of the activities.

We’ve also got some ideas for avian activities you can get together yourself for some family fun on our website. Click here for how to make bird finger puppets, recycled bird feeders and some colour by numbers print outs for younger children, and much more.

If you’ve got any more questions, we may well be able to provide an answer on our website. You can of course take a look at the RSPB in the East Facebook page, view our Twitter feed or visit our ‘Bugs, Birds and Beasts in the East’ blog for more local info.

Before you dig your binoculars out of the cupboard, we have a quick weather update.

We’re set for a fresh burst of heavy snow across Norfolk late tonight and in the early hours of tomorrow morning, and the Met Office have issued an amber warning for snow for the rest of today. So if you are getting up early to head to the Forum or anywhere else tomorrow, it might be worth setting the alarm a little earlier in case the roads are tricky.

That looks as though it could be our last snowfall for a while though, with temperatures rising to as high as 9°C on Sunday – not quite time to crack open the sun cream but a good deal warmer than the -3°C we experienced this morning.

That warm weather looks as though it will continue into early next week, with a few showers about, and you can once again check the five-day forecast in more detail on the Met Office website.

Whatever the weather, have a great weekend! We’ll be back again next week.

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