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Gardeners Advice


Feed the birds
19 Dec

Feed the birds

Posted By: rocket veg Category: Beak of the Week

Now that the last of the leaves have fallen from a beautiful Koelreuteria tree in my back garden, the birds have rediscovered the feeder baskets hanging there, so the time has come to give them a good clean and refill with various tasty treats in the hope of attracting different species. When the tree is covered with beautiful foliage, the feeders are almost hidden and only the pluckiest of birds – generally blue tits – bother to seek out food.

My garden is a magnet for local cats, far more active in summer when they can prowl along the garden walls, concealed by the shrubs growing in the borders, than during the winter months when most of the plants are dormant and bare. As a result, there has been a noticeable increase in number of birds visiting the garden in the past few weeks, including a Great Spotted Woodpecker, its distinctive plumage looking rather bedraggled in the rain, but making short work of a suet ball. We also have bird feeders on the tree in our front garden and among the dozen or so species of birds which we see there, a Nuthatch has become a regular visitor – a plucky little bird which doesn’t stand any nonsense from bigger birds which are also after the peanuts and seeds.

If you follow the current advice from the RSPB to put food out for garden birds all year round, don’t stop at any point as the birds will come to rely on your feeders as a source of food, especially during bad weather when alternative food supplies are scarce. A wide range of bird food, aimed at attracting different species, is available nowadays: sunflower hearts – popular with most species - mealworms and specialist seed mixes, as well as the ubiquitous peanuts. I also hang up suet balls, although these seemed to be shunned at certain times of the year and quickly become mouldy in their wire hanger. The fresh supply which I put out recently was demolished in a matter of minutes by a flock of Sparrows - no sign of them being in decline where I live.

As well as supplying visiting birds with food, don’t forget that they will be in search of water. An old garden plant saucer is perfect, being shallow and stable, as long as it is placed out of reach from predators (cats!) and topped up on a regular basis, especially after a heavy frost.

Now is a good time to put up a bird box which will allow time for the box to ‘weather in’ and for the birds to get used to it. With luck, you will have a nest there in the coming spring. As with bird food, a wide variety of nesting boxes are readily available in the hope that different species of bird will become regular visitors to your garden. Lastly, when the time comes, don’t forget to take part in one of the annual bird counts which gather invaluable information about the state of the UK bird population.

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