Nature lovers were encouraged to join the nation’s biggest wildlife survey this weekend – and to make their gardens more appealing to the birds they recorded there.

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The RSPB, in partnership with conservation groups including the Friends of the Earth, the Bat Group Norwich, and Master Gardeners, invited the public into the Forum in Norwich throughout the charity’s Big Garden Birdwatch weekend.

The survey asked the public to spend an hour counting the numbers of birds in their garden or local park, and report back to the RSPB to help build a better understanding of species’ habitats and population.

And to help boost the counts in future years, visitors to the Forum were taught about wildlife-friendly gardening, given a “pick and mix” choice of bird seeds, and offered the chance to build their own bird box.

Aggie Rothon, Big Garden Birdwatch project manager for the RSPB, said: “The survey is about getting as many people as possible across the East region sitting down and looking out of their window for an hour and counting the birds in their garden. “The most important thing is that they then submit the results to the RSPB so we get an idea of numbers and what we may be able to do to help them.

“Once people have done the big garden birdwatch this weekend, what we’re asking them to do is to take the rest of the year to improve things in their garden, so they can see the difference next year.”

David Cannon was one of the RSPB volunteers selling £3 bird boxes for blue tits and great tits, made from timber kits supplied by the prisoners at Wayland Prison near Watton.

He said: “It is critical that they face north-east, otherwise the birds won’t use them. But blue tits don’t care what they look like, as long as they keep the water out, so why would you pay £30 for one?”

Among the experts giving tips on how to make gardens more wildlife-friendly was Shirley Boyle, who tends the RSPB’s Flatford wildlife garden in East Bergholt, in Suffolk.

She said: “One of the easiest things to do, although this is not always popular, is to be a little less tidy in your garden. It does not mean you have to let it all go mad, but leave a small corner of the garden for the grass to get a little longer, because it provides a good habitat for insects and invertebrates which provide food higher up the chain.

“People tend to take things down the dump straight away, but we say: ‘Why not use them creatively?’ If you have got tree prunings you can lay them down to make a ‘dead hedge’. Deadwood is a great source of food and habitat for a lot of creatures and it is a greener way of dealing with your waste rather than driving it to the dump or burning it.”

The event also included a gallery of wildlife photography, as well as nature-inspired face-painting and story-telling.

Anyone who took part in the Big Garden Birdwatch survey can record their results at www.rspb.org.uk/birdwatch.

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