It’s that time of year again. I have chopped up the rind off a couple of rolled gammon I cooked last week, ready to sprinkle on the wall outside my desk window. The birdfeeder is replenished with a more meticulous regime than is usual. Yes, it’s the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch, where the members of the UK’s biggest subscription organisation set time aside to do a proper, and invaluable, biogeographical survey of their own backyard. From this, experts will map and plot the ebb and flow of species, indicating the health or otherwise of our natural and man made habitats.
I love it. Every year, I wonder how I am going to tame my usual tendencies for constant activity and busy schedules, and sit for a whole hour. At first, I find it hard. My eyes haven’t adjusted to pick up on every camouflaged movement, or to differentiate between all the ‘little brown jobs’. I’m much better at identifying birds by their song than by sight. But then, unmoving but thoroughly moved, I detect so much more that is going on around me, presumably all the time. It’s a great piece of downtime. I am forced to sit and observe and do little else. I don’t distract myself with any music, maybe just a cup of tea. I guess it’s a form of meditation, and like meditation, it has its own disciplines – no bigging up your garden by exaggerating the numbers, and you can’t count that buzzard ’cause it didn’t set foot on your territory, no matter how many times it circled.
This year being what it is, I guess the survey should throw up some surprises. Birds should be too smart to have brought any summer migrants in yet, though my patch has thronged to spring birdsong this week. And who knows what birds Gertrude nee Jonas may have blown off course? Unlikely to have any surprises here, though in the past I have reported improbable numbers of jackdaws that really had landed all at the same time. But each participant is a small part of a very important big picture and it helps the RSPB and the scientists no end. And I get the benefit of having had a calm and calming hour gazing quietly across the green. Lovely.