As winter takes hold, many people around the country will be putting out food for wild birds to help tide them over the shortest days and the coldest months of the year.
If you regularly feed the birds you will know what is involved but if this is something new to you and something you would like to do, but never knew where to begin, help is at hand.
BirdWatch Ireland have launched a special bird-feeding section on their website that will get you off to a flying start. They also stock garden bird food, feeders, bird books and binoculars in their shop and offer cheap and speedy delivery to anywhere in Ireland. What's more, all proceeds from their sales go to fund their vital conservation work, so when you buy from them the birds get a double benefit.
And while you are taking care of your garden birds, why not count them too? The annual Irish Garden Bird Survey, sponsored once again this winter by the Ballymaloe Group, has just started and will run until the end of February. It's a great way to learn more about the birds that come to your home, and the data that you send to BirdWatch Ireland is invaluable in keeping track of the fortunes and movements of our feathered friends.
The Irish Garden Bird Survey is now the longest-running citizen science research project in Ireland. And bird surveys don't come any easier than the Garden Bird Survey, as the birds come to you, you can do it from the comfort of your own kitchen and the whole family can also take part.
Garden bird feeders are best erected in clear view of a window. Once you have your feeders stocked and in place, the birds will come. The survey involves keeping a record of what birds visit your feeders between December and February. You are asked to keep note of the highest number of each bird species visiting your garden every week. The survey form also asks for information on the size of the garden being surveyed, the kinds of food, if any, being offered to the birds, and so on.
As the Irish countryside changes, gardens are becoming increasingly important havens for many species, so it is vital for conservationists to know how populations are faring, how things are changing and how the environment is faring in general. If you want to get involved full details are at https://birdwatchireland.ie/.