South Park locals take part in the world’s largest wildlife survey

This weekend, South Park, Ilford encouraged locals to join bird charity RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch survey which helps to keep track of birds and other wildlife. With a chill in the air but a spring in her step Raeesa Mukhtar was happy to join other keen wildlife enthusiasts to help record the findings!

Having never taken part in a birdwatch of any sort before, I was warmly welcomed by the park rangers who were happy to give me the low down of how it all works! All we needed to do was use RSPB’s handy Birdwatch form to note down the highest number of each bird species seen at any one time, and they only count if you spot them having landed. Then the form is sent off and the findings will be put towards the very important research done by the charity!

This year, other wildlife was also of interest to RSPB, so while we were mainly looking out for birds, the odd squirrel also got included in our findings. It ended up becoming a bit like a game of bingo! We met and set off from South Park’s Wildlife Centre that has been transformed from an old boating house into an impressive centre for education and information. With the help of local businesses and community organisations including Sainsbury’s, Ilford and East London Community Foundation £16,000 was raised for the refurbishment in March-July 2011.

From novices to experts, people of all experience levels and ages were welcome and once our group had been formed we set off for a walk around the park, keeping our eyes peeled and listening very closely to spot the different birds. Armed with binoculars it was easier to spot the birds as they entwined with branches that almost camouflaged them. Every time a little tweet or squeak was heard, heads shot up and around in all different directions trying to spot the bird to go with it! Pretty soon many of the species were being ticked off the list with Magpies, Blue Tit and many Woodpigeons being spotted.

The pond that takes up a great stretch of the park is home to a variety of ducks and wildlife which were also recorded, and we even had the lovely Canada goose following us on our walk! Squeals of excitement came from the children as a Robin Red Breast was spotted in one of the bushes. “Something so little but they’re quite loud, they stay safe in the bushes” said Tess (a nature conservation ranger) of her favourite bird!

As we got closer to the bowling area of the park, we spotted a Chaffinch as well as two Blackbirds. Bird expert Richard was on hand to give some tips on making a zipping noise that can draw birds out from the comfort of the trees.

Time flew by and before we knew it we were walking back up to the Wildlife Centre, where the kids got stuck in with some bird and wildlife inspired arts and crafts. The morning was a true success and everyone was smiling contently. One child excitedly shouted out “this is the best art ever!” sending a ripple of laughter through the group. Everyone was in high spirits, happy to be taking part in such an important cause.

At the end of the session experts Anne, Tess and Richard sat down with me to go through some of the key aspects of Redbridge’s nature and wildlife:

R: How important is it to maintain our green areas in Redbridge?

 “As a ranger I can say it is really important, especially to keep the balance between nature and people”

R: As our wildlife is affected by Redbridge’s increasing urbanisation, what can we do on a day to day basis to help improve the situation?

“There is so much we can do, and they are such simple things that if everyone did just one of them, there would be a huge benefit.”

“Plant trees, keep your gardens concrete free, feed the birds – but with the right stuff!!”

“If you chop down a tree, keep the wood in your garden! Things like that and everyone can do their bit”

R: We saw some great enthusiasm and interest from the kids today, how important is it to get kids involved and how can they do it?

“It’s really important to get youngsters involved, they can plant trees at home or their school can encourage them to plant one then see if they can replant it in a park. That way, they will be more likely to take care of it.”

It is clear to see why maintaining our green spaces and taking care of wildlife is so important today, yet it is so easily forgotten. Doing such simple things really can make a difference and it’s a great way to spend time in the great outdoors with fresh air and all things natural.

Post Author: Raeesa Mukhtar

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