Following on from my earlier blogs on wildlife gardens and ponds you’ll have guessed by now that, allied to my professional interest in gardens and all things horticultural, is a fascination for wildlife and, in particular birds.

The day I saw my first Golden Eagle in a wet Lake District valley as a footsore 10 year old, I was hooked. These days, however, I can appreciate the slightly less dramatic species I see on a daily basis in and around the gardens we design and build in Oxfordshire and Berkshire. In fact, so far this year I’ve recorded 41 species of birds in my own garden – most of which many people would never notice.

So, it got me thinking that if wildlife gardens are be judged as successful, then surely the critical measure is the diversity of species they attract right across the plant and animal kingdoms?

This isn’t as easy to measure as you may think, however. By carefully selecting the right plant for the right place, most gardeners are controlling the species rather than encouraging diversity, so it’s hard to include plants amongst this measure. Wild animals, on the other hand are notoriously difficult to see as they shy away from humans, so they can’t be easily included either. And insects are often very hard to identify – even when you can see them.

So that leaves birds – the best indicator, I believe, of the success of other creatures and plants, and also a very visible part of the wildlife garden ecosystem that’s easy to monitor and measure.

“But I can’t tell a starling from a spoonbill!” I hear you cry. Well, fear not, the RSPB has a brilliant way to identify birds – their online Bird Identifier. You tell it the size, place, feathers, beak and anything else to describe it and the Identifier comes up with some suggestions.

We’re so keen to find out where the best feathered wildlife can be found that we’re going to give a copy of the RSPB Pocket Guide to British Birds to all new customers in 2016 to help you identify the birds that visit your garden.

Throughout the year you can then keep a log of the birds that visit your garden to see just how many species your new garden attracts.  At the end of the year we’ll award the accolade (and a fabulous prize) to the GreenArt Wildlife Gardener of the Year – the customer that has identified the greatest number of species in their garden.

We’ll be posting our sightings and yours on Twitter and Facebook, with photos whenever possible, so even if you haven’t had your garden designed and built by GreenArt you can join in the fun.

We’d love to see your photos too of anything you spot, so please send them to us and we’ll share them with our followers.