A nation of birders…
As I write, I’m watching 15 house sparrows plunder seeds in my garden, and their cheerful squabbling brings me joy. When you see such numbers, it’s hard to believe that this familiar species has undergone a 50–60% decline in the last century. We know this because the fortunes of sparrows and many other birds have been reflected in the findings of the RSPB’s annual Big Garden Birdwatch. For the past 40 years, a growing number of people have sat for an hour on the same weekend in January recording garden visitors. So how important is this ‘citizen science’ in helping conservationists and influencing policy makers, and which birds have won or lost? Ben Hoare investigates on page 32.
Watching wildlife from a warm living room is appealing but, for the brave, midwinter is the best time for walking. The countryside looks, sounds and smells different: bird calls travel further and the light penetrates leafless woods where the musty scents of decay stir with every footfall. So we’ve hunted down landscapes at their best in the frozen months, see page 77, with an extra dose of wildlife on page 18 in the form of Charles Rangeley-Wilson’s eulogy to Norfolk. I love how he contrasts the cosiness of ancient villages and firelit country houses with the haunting bleakness of the coast. And if you want to bring some of that winter landscape into your own garden, Susie White heralds plants that look their best in the colder months on page 58.
For many, garden birds are a vital and possibly the only connection to the wider countryside
Fergus Collins, edi[email protected]tryfile.com