A na­tion of bird­ers…

Countryfile Magazine - - Editor’s Letter -

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

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