During the winter months gardens provide a vital source of food for our native and visiting birds when they need us most. Encouraging birds to visit your garden is easy and extremely rewarding, and all you need to do is consider a few simple things, food, shelter and water.
Use a good quality bird seed in your feeders which will ensure less waste. A favourite of many species at this time of year are sunflower hearts.
Having a good variety of food choice including seed, fat balls and some protein in the form of meal worms will provide the complete menu for your guests. Birds use up a lot of energy searching for food when it is cold, so convenience is high on their priority list.
Using a feeding station and combination of feeders suspended from hooks or branches is the perfect choice. Smaller birds like blue tits and finches are experts at using the hanging type feeders, whilst robins, black birds and dunnocks prefer a flat surface, so a bird table is ideal placed out the of way of a sneaky cat!
Ensure bird feeders are cleaned regularly to prevent the spread of disease, do this outside using a mild disinfectant and warm soapy water in a bucket, probably best not to use the kitchen sink!
When considering wildlife friendly planting ideas for your garden, it is essential to include a selection that will benefit them throughout the year, including the winter months. Trees, shrubs, flowers and even your lawn will attract a whole host of insects to your garden which in turn will provide a valuable food source for the birds.
At this time of year in the winter garden, Rowan trees and shrubs with berries, like holly, pyracantha and yew are good providers, whilst teasles, sunflowers and grasses offer seeds, that are particularly loved by finches.
If you need some advice or would like help to re-design your borders with wildlife friendly planting in mind, then why not get in touch and we can discuss your ideas.
Good shelter is an especially important consideration. Safe warm next boxes come into their own in spring when birds lay their eggs, but during the winter can provide much needed shelter from the cold and wet particularly for smaller birds. Position boxes out of direct sunlight and rain and ensure it is 2-4 m above ground level, ideally facing between north and east.
Naturally, dense hedges like privet and conifer provide the perfect evergreen place to hide and make the ideal perch or song post. Climbing plants like honeysuckle and ivy do a similar job for both birds and insects alike.
Finally, water, a cold bath to us does not sound particularly alluring on a winter’s day, but to our birds it is vital to keep their feathers in good condition to ensure perfect flight and insulation.
Keep bird baths clean and topped up with fresh water, a good idea to stop it freezing over is to place a small ball or something that floats in the water which will create a gap in the ice. Add a few pebbles around the water edge to allow small or young birds and insects a safe place to drink without the risk of falling in.
In January the RSPB will be holding its annual Big Garden Birdwatch between 29-31st January, contact www.rspb.org.ok for more details. This is a great way to spend a few hours sat in the warm or as we do, in the summerhouse counting the variety of visitors to our own garden. This information provides the RSPB with vital data to allow them to chart which species are doing well and not so well, so why not take part?
Until next time Happy New Year