Residents at more than 30 care homes across the country run by Care UK are polishing their binoculars and sharpening their pencils ready to take part in this year’s RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch for the second year running.
Watching wild birds has been a popular pastime for residents and the teams working in the homes for many years but, in the past few months, the people in some homes have decided to take their interest one step further with various enhancements to make their gardens more wildlife-friendly. These include:
- The planting of flowers and shrubs designed to attract butterflies and other nectar loving insects in the gardens of many of the homes, particularly the new ones.
- Providing various types of food for birds including homemade fat-balls produced by the residents.
- Putting up brightly decorated nest boxes for birds.
- Planting shrubs that provide dense cover for roosting and nesting or those that produce berries birds love to eat.
Now, the homes are all ready to join in with the world’s largest wildlife survey on Saturday 30 and Sunday 31 January. A longstanding RSPB initiative, the Big Garden Birdwatch encourages people throughout the UK to take a closer look at the nature on their doorsteps by counting the different birds which visit their garden in any one hour over the last weekend of January, as well as recording any non-bird species such as badgers and hedgehogs.
Dementia expert Bridget Penney from Care UK is delighted to see caring for birds and wildlife becoming such an important part of life in so many homes.
She said: “Lots of people love to watch the birds but, for older people, it’s so much more than just a way of passing the time. It provides a prompt for conversations and reminiscences – something that is particularly important for people living with dementia. So many people have memories associated with birds, from robins pinching worms while Dad digs the vegetable patch, to feeding ducks with their children in the park.
"Seeing birds on the feeders can unlock memories from decades ago and prompt conversations, even with someone whose advanced dementia has made them quite withdrawn. Equally, birdsong has the same ability to release memories, which is why we produced our own CD of bird calls a few years ago for homes to use in activity sessions.”
As well as prompting memories, residents have enjoyed craft sessions decorating bird boxes and many have helped to make the special fat balls which seem to be going down a storm with feathered friends during the recent cold snap.
Bridget added. “Just cleaning and re-filling feeders and bird baths are meaningful tasks which get residents outdoors and moving around and they love to be doing their bit to help wildlife.”
33 Care UK homes from Cheadle to Crowborough are taking part in the survey this weekend. Their results will be submitted to the RSPB. Some home teams have even gone one step further and also invited the local owl sanctuary to come along and talk about the birds they have rescued as part of a whole series of activities designed to celebrate British birds and wildlife.
Visit careuk.com/birdwatch for more information about birdwatching and to download Care UK’s fat ball recipe.
The RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch has taken place annually over the last 35 years, with the information collected each year helping the RSPB form a picture of bird populations across the country and highlighting any trends or changes. For more information, visit rspb.org.uk