What birds will I see in Dorset in the Big Garden Birdwatch?

A redwing thrush perched on snow covered ground

Redwing are frequent visitors to garden bird tables in winter - Credit: rspb.org.uk

Want to take part in the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch this January? Then set out a selection of tasty treats now to attract a wide range of birds to your Dorset garden   

As temperatures drop and nature’s natural food sources run low, birds come flocking to Dorset gardens and greenspaces in search of tasty treats to fuel up. So why not start feeding the birds where you live and then join the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch which runs from January 28-30. Last year’s event had 1 million participants, including nearly 16,500 people from across Dorset. The conservation charity uses these recorded observations to help monitor the health of different bird species, to see if there are any trends, up or down, and whether there are any issues causing this – such as better habitat or loss of habitat, food, shelter and weather conditions. It’s easy to take part in the Big Garden Birdwatch, simply set aside one hour to record the birds you see land in your garden, balcony or local park and then send your results to the RSPB. The main thing is to become known amongst the local bird population now as a desirable dining destination, once the word spreads...you will have plenty of feathered visitors to watch from your window.   

Fieldfare thrush adult feeding on berries,

Fieldfare is another visiting thrush to be found in winter - Credit: rspb.org.uk

What birds might I see? Last year’s survey saw the house sparrow remaining at the top of the Big Garden Birdwatch rankings in Dorset as the most commonly seen garden bird. Found in nearly 63% of Dorset gardens, across the country more than 2.6 million house sparrows were counted throughout the weekend. Meanwhile, starlings and blue tits joined house sparrows to form the top three most sighted birds in Dorset.  

Blue tit and great tit birds feeding on a hanging coconut shell filled with fat and seeds

Blue tit and great tit feeding on a coconut shell filled with fat and seeds - Credit: Chris Gomersall/rspb-images.com

Being on the south coast, Dorset is also blessed with many migratory bird species that come here to make the most of our milder winters. Birds such as chiffchaffs, redwings, bramblings and fieldfares may become familiar visitors to your bird table, especially if food shortages on the continent have forced them to come here in search of food. 

Brambling male foraging on woodland floor,

Brambling, a northern visitor that is related to our chaffinch - Credit: rspb.org.uk

The beauty of the Big Garden Birdwatch is that you don’t need to know your chiffchaffs from your chaffinches to take part as the RSPB has a fantastic range of resources on their website including their handy bird identification guide at rspb.org.uk/birdidentifier.  

Brown bird with yellow stripe over eye on a branch

Chiffchaff is another lesser known garden visitor you may see - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

What’s more, if you’re able to snap a quick photograph with your phone as a bird visits your garden, you can send it to the RSPB via Facebook or Twitter (@rspbengland) where experts can help you identify what you have seen, and this resource is available all year round.  

Long-tailed tit adult feeding at a bird table

Long-tailed tit feeding at a bird table in winter - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Become an avian destination dining location 

Creating bird feeding stations in your garden is a great way to attract new visitors and encourage your feathered friends to spend more time on your doorstep (which is always handy when you’re trying to identify them). 

Great tits and blue tits feasting on bird feeders in a garden

Great tits and blue tits feeding - put a wide variety of food and feeding opportunities to suit all birds - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Over 60% of the UK population regularly feed their garden birds, and research suggests that this helps around 196 million birds a year. Different feeders and food will attract a variety of birds, with foodstuffs such as sunflower hearts, niger seeds and suet being particularly popular (these can be purchased online at rspb.org.uk/shop). Ensure you have a range of feeders too, not every bird is a nimble acrobat that can balance on a feeder, ensure you have food for ground feeders and bird table feeders – such as thrush, blackbird and robin.   

Birds feeding on a seed feeder in a garden

Greenfinch and chaffinch on a seed bird feeder - have a mix of foods and ensure ground feeder are catered for too - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

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If your bird feed supplies run low, your kitchen cupboards hold other tasty options that will bring in the birds. Fruits like apples and pears, even when they’re past their best will be enjoyed by blackbirds and thrushes, while grated cheese can be a fantastic source of energy and protein for a range of birds. Cooked pastry, defrosted peas or unsalted bacon leftovers are also great options. Cooked rice, pasta and the inside of potatoes are other great energy sources.  

Click here to find out about sightings of a white-tailed eagle in Dorset 

How to take part in the Big Garden Birdwatch

Simply count the different numbers of bird species you see in your garden, from your balcony or in your local park for one hour between 28 and 30 January 2022. For your FREE Big Garden Birdwatch guide, which includes a bird identification chart, top tips for your  birdwatch, and how to record and report your results visit rspb.org.uk/birdwatch.