Wintertime for Wild Birds

I like wild birds in my garden at home. They remind me that lots around our world will have little or no consequence to me but that I can act positively towards them. Using seeds, grains and peanuts and they can help my state of mind. Watching them at our bird feeder, bird table and bird bath relaxes me.

I remember, as a child, being scared by a starling, who had got into the same confined space as me, a shed. And, for a moment I felt this scared creature looked at me as if to say “Actually, I don’t think you will eat me!” I held open the door to the shed, and it hopped away, with a glance back at me, as if to thank me.

From that moment, I have tried to help garden birds along their way. A bird bath, a nesting box, a bird feeder, all appeared in my garden visible from windows, as I taught my children to admire them from indoors.

With winter on the horizon and temperatures gradually dropping, life is once again about to get tough for the general population of wild birds.

Freezing conditions, combined with a lack of food, mean that survival skills will be seriously tested for the birds. Like soldiers on exercise, but they go with equipment to aid there survival. They take what shelter and occasionally nutrition they can forage. Wild birds might survive without our help but are likely to thrive with just a little effort on our part.

A bird can use around 10% of its body weight keeping warm during a cold night in winter, and a prolonged cold spell can easily prove fatal if reserves aren’t topped up during the day.

This is why it is so important to provide the wild birds in your garden with a plentiful supply of high energy food during the colder months of October to March. It can be the difference between life and death during this part of the year.

Step one, for most of us,  is to introduce a bird feeder and/or bird table to your garden, making sure it is high off the ground and in a place where the birds will feel safe and undisturbed.
Avoid positioning them near to fences, walls or hedges, where cats or squirrels can reach them.

Make sure that the feeders are full for the birds’ early morning feed and again for their pre-dusk feed. It is important to keep the feeders clean and free from droppings or mouldy food, as this can lead to infection. Keep them clean with clean water, especially if ice has formed. (no soaps or bleaches, please!) A water pistol is good fun for this task!

So which foods are suitable? Peanuts are a sure-fire favourite, but keep them dry, damp or mouldy ones can contain poisonous fungus called aflatoxin. Fruit like raisins and mixed seeds will be snapped up, with sunflower seeds ideally suited to feeding young in the nest. A nice little muesli mix we have there then.

Fat balls are also ideal for providing birds with a nutritious, prime food source and you can even feed them kitchen scraps such as bread, fat, bacon rind, suet and pastry.

Additionally those with a really childish sense of humour can use the following words in the same sentence:
Fat Balls, Nibbled, Tits, made a meal, Birds etc. the list is endless! 
Kentcare takes no responsibility for any sentences you choose to make up!

A useful tip is to make sure you drop some food on the ground, as some birds prefer to not to dine at feeders or tables. Finally, don’t forget to provide them with a fresh supply of water every day.

In addition to feeding, you can also put up nest boxes to provide roosting sites for breeding birds. The natural nest sites on which many of our bird species depend, such as holes in trees and buildings, are fast disappearing as gardens and woods are ‘tidied’ and old houses are repaired.

Nest boxes can be fixed to fence posts, walls, trees or buildings – again, choose somewhere high above ground level, as this will allow for easy flight access whilst also being out of the reach of predators like cats, squirrels and foxes, or the unnatural predators; the Football, Frisbee etc!  The added bonus is that many birds return to the same area for generations, year after year.

All this nourishment and shelter will attract all manner of species of bird to your garden, including house  and more.

To return the favour, the birds will eat many garden pests, such as slugs, snails, grubs, wireworms, caterpillars and insects. They’re also fascinating to watch and their daily antics will soon have you hooked, be careful how much of your time they take up, they have been known to keep some of the more tedious household chores from being done.

More Information can be found on the official website of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds

Sensitive planting – Case study
Pyracantha Orange Glow
The Pryracantha Orange Glow errrm…glowing!
Courtesy of R Ramsay Esq

One case that recently came to my attention was to solve a problem of a hedge which needed to be more of a spiky deterrent for a perimeter. We advised a particular shrub called Pyracantha Orange Glow: an evergreen fast establishing hedge, with prickles throughout their growth pattern. Almost as an afterthought, we should mention it produces white flowers in Summer and eye-catching Orange berries from Autumn through to Red in the wintertime, hence “Orange Glow”.

Pyracantha Orange Glow with Guest – Courtesy of R Ramsay Esq

Pyracantha Orange Glow with Guest – Courtesy of R Ramsay Esq

A bonus indeed.

The birds, I am informed, are fieldfares – colourful thrushes – which apparently only leave the countryside in severe winter food shortages.

Pyracantha Orange Glow with Guest – Courtesy of R Ramsay Esq

Pyracantha Orange Glow with Guest – Courtesy of R Ramsay Esq