Take part in France's garden bird-counting weekend

Home owners are being urged to count and identify birds in their garden for an hour at the end of May to help protect avian wildlife in France

Counting birds can help to protect them

A bird-counting initiative spearheaded by the Ligue pour la Protection des Oiseaux (LPO) and the Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle takes place across France on May 25 and 26.

Findings can be reported via the Oiseaux des jardins website. You will first have to register some personal information as well as details about your garden, such as its size and whether you have a pond. 

The LPO has information sheets available on its website to help with identification and to tell the difference between similar birds.

Marjorie Poitevin, who manages citizen science at the LPO and the Observatoire des oiseaux des jardin, advises identifying just one or two species of birds to get used to it. Eventually, you will start to notice more species, she told The Connexion.

“I think people will be pleasantly surprised at the number of different species of birds in their garden,” she added. 

Good view

Binoculars are best to get a close view of the birds or, if you do not have any, choose a strategic spot with a good view. 

She also recommends paying close attention to bird behaviour, as this can be crucial in differentiating a Dunnock, a house sparrow and a tree sparrow, for example, which all look very similar. 

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It is important to only count birds once during the hour. For example, if you spot two carrion crows in your garden together, and half an hour later, you spot a carrion crow again, only record the first two. This is to avoid potentially inflating the numbers as it might be the same bird. 

As it is likely to be warm in May, the best time to spot is late morning, before the hottest time of day.

Mating season

The weekend is one of two national counting events each year, with the other taking place at the end of January. The end of May is mating season for birds, which is why it is chosen. 

This may make it more difficult to spot birds however, as they become more territorial and less prone to explore during mating season. This time is of particular interest to scientists seeking to understand more about their habits and numbers. 

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“The final objective of the weekend is to raise awareness. Many people have these beautiful species in their gardens that are suffering, and they do not even know about them,” Ms Poitevin said. 

The best way for people to help these birds is by making their gardens as welcoming as possible to avian visitors. 

During the January weekend, around 30,000 people took part. May is only expected to draw around 5,000 participants because it is harder to spot the birds. The surveys have been taking place for 12 years.

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If you enjoy identifying birds and reporting your findings, you can continue to do so year-round. Ms Poitevin said the LPO will appreciate the input as it is always looking for more data related to garden birds. 

“Anglo-saxons tend to be very active and involved in this sort of endeavour,” she said. “Similar projects have been taking place in the UK for years and have tens of thousands of participants every time.”