Springtime birdwatch

Photo by Barry Stalker

It feels like spring is finally here, now that the sun has appeared for more than three consecutive days; it almost makes one feel like bursting into song, or at least a spot of poetry…

Spring has sprung, the grass has riz
I wonder where the birdies is?
The little birds be on the wing
But that’s absurd! The wing be on the bird!

A fair amount of birds seem to be in my garden (and neighbouring areas), judging by the chorus coming through my open window; even the nearby traffic can’t drown it out and the appearance of my sun-seeking moggy does nothing to put them off.

Bird populations are a good indicator of how healthy an environment is – they rely primarily on plants and mini-beasts for food, so a wide variety of bird species indicates good levels of biodiversity. The habitat for many birds in the UK is decreasing due to human activity; loss of natural spaces as well as changes in building styles limit the places that birds can nest and breed.

How many birds are active in your garden? What species are they? Are they there all year, or only at certain times? The RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch runs in January every year, and you can check the results online – do the top ten birds appear in your garden…?

There are lots of ways to encourage more birds to visit your garden:

  • Safe access to water, in bird-baths and ponds – maybe you could make an interesting water feature out of reclaimed furniture..?
  • Provision of food from October to April – seeds, especially black sunflower, are good. Peanuts can be toxic if not the correct type, obtain from a good supplier. Cooking fats and low-fat margarines/oils are NOT suitable for birds. ‘Pure’ fats are fine.
  • Leave some nooks and crannies on sheds/outer walls/fences etc. to provide habitat. Thick hedges can also be great for habitat.
  • Have a ‘wild area’ where flora and fauna can have a bit of a ramble, preferably including a tour of a compost heap and some dead wood; this will create a wonderful, bio-diverse feeding ground for many bird species (you can hide it behind that thick hedge if you don’t want to view it from the lawn!).
  • Plant some bird-friendly berries and a wide range of flowers to attract lots of insects.
  • You can make bird-boxes and feeding tables from reclaimed wood or furniture; this is going to be a hammer and nails job, so be careful with those fingers and thumbs.

This article has plenty of ideas for home-made bird feeders. A simple example can be made with a large (empty) plastic bottle, some string and a couple of sharp objects (careful with those fingers & thumbs!) for cutting and poking small holes. Cut a reasonable-sized hole in the side of the bottle, leaving up to 10cm/4” in the base for seeds. Poke holes in the base to allow for drainage and to prevent the seeds going mouldy. Tie the string around the neck of the bottle, fill with seeds and find a sensible place to hang it.

If you have many outdoor cats, in your area, be careful to site bird provisions well away from any cat hiding places or basking spots.

Now that your garden is a bird haven, why not let us know who’s visiting it? Tell us what you think by sending a message, or share a picture of your garden with us.

The RSPB website has lots of very useful information on providing for birds in your garden and community. They also have a local club if you’re interested in learning more about the bird population. This local blog has some absolutely stunning photographs of birds and other local fauna.

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