Attracting Birds to Your Garden
One of the highlights of last winter was sitting with my boys watching the local (and some not so local) birds feasting in our garden. It was a particularly harsh winter so it was really gratifying to see that we had done ‘our bit’ to help them. This year we intend to re-double our efforts and really get the flocks visiting us!
What is it now? Early November and already the garden is readied for the birds. The lads have cleaned out and re-filled the feeders and the bird bath has had a scrub. The flower borders are looking a wee bit sorry for themselves, and we’ve got a couple of piles of leaves ready to provide shelter for grubs and insects.
Lack of supply
I tend supply some bird food throughout the year, but obviously the winter is when the birds most need our assistance. The ground is generally much too hard to get the early bird’s dues, while a lot of the insects and grubs are hidden away – hibernating in the vegetation. That’s not all, it's chilly, and there aren’t many daylight hours for the birds to actively look for sustenance.
For the larger, ground grazing birds, the lads chop up apples and place them in the borders. The larger birds like to turn over leaves when looking for food, so we go to the local park and collect some to pile into the corners of our garden. By mid-winter, all the leaves have been turned over and scattered, with each little hibernating slug, beetle and caterpillar taken from their winter refuge.
Smaller birds like the blue tit and wren are in most danger of dying during cold winter nights due to their large surface area (strange I know). But they can lose body heat quickly and it uses lots of calories just to keep warm. To help these little chaps, we put out a supply of clean, fresh water every day, and they use that to drink and also clean their feathers. The feeders for these guys have high calorie sunflower hearts mixed with peanuts.
Migrant birds can be nervous about visiting feeding stations, so we put out seeds, bread crumbs, small bits of cheese, pasta and rice toward the rear of the borders. If you’re going to do this, only leave a small amount, so the literal rat-pack are not tempted to make an appearance. Last winter the snow made ground feeding pretty tough, so we put food in a tray, and placed it under an umbrella. The robins didn’t have any trouble finding it!
Remember that there is lots of food naturally found in the garden, if we let it prosper. Try not to cut back any ivy until the birds have taken what they need, and you could try to grow holly, honeysuckle and hawthorn which provide plenty of high calorie berries. You might not even need to buy the plants; the blackbirds have provided three ivy seedlings to our garden! Having noted that, however, it will take a while before they’re big enough to fuel the birds over the entire winter.
So here’s to record numbers visiting this year!