Our garden is a fairly typical suburban garden – rectangular lawn, not too large, not too small – and with a variety of shrubs and bushes.
I always like to see birds in the garden and we have a bird feeder that I try to remember to fill and put out a dish of water – we also throw on to the lawn the bread crusts that the boys don’t manage to eat. We don’t get a massive number or variety of birds, but often early in the mornings, if I sit in the kitchen, I will see blue tits darting in and out of a neighbour’s tree that overhangs our fence and there is a robin that bobs across the lawn fairly frequently. We also get the occasional blackbird, some magpies and woodpigeons.
Here’s a few snaps I’ve taken of birds in our garden over the past few months… I’m not entirely sure what they all are, there’s a woodpigeon and a great tit, and possibly a coal tit and a juvenile blackbird.
It would be nice to attract even more birds to our garden and for us as a family to get better at identifying them. My dad is a nature lover and bird watcher, so if we spot something we don’t recognise, we’ll phone him up and describe its characteristics to him so he can tell us what it could be! The boys have their own small binoculars and have been on a birdwatching expedition or two. We also took part in the RSPB’s Big Garden Bird Watch back in January where almost 590,000 people across the UK participated, counting all the birds seen in their garden or a local park for one hour, then telling the RSPB what they saw.
You can see what made the top 10 on the RSPB website, which sadly states that some of the UK’s most threatened and best-loved bird species are continuing to decline. Harsh winters and bad crops of food sources, such as acorns are factors which will make birds seek food and shelter in our gardens, which make up around 4% of land area in the UK. They can be vital for the survival of some birds and there are some positive things we can do to help.
There are different wild bird seed mixes that can attract songbirds and colourful birds, so buying wild bird food is a great way to increase the number of birds that you have visiting your garden. Certain seeds appeal to some types of birds more than others, so seed mixes are tailored accordingly and there are even some that are ideal for young birds during nesting season.
But you also have to think about where you place food in the garden, as not all bird varieties like to use the same style of feeding. Blackbirds, for example, prefer feeding off the ground or the flat surface of a bird table, whereas small, brightly coloured birds like blue tits and finches can hang off a bird feeder with ease. Using a combination of bird tables, the ground and hanging feeders is probably best.
We should also consider not placing food near walls or roofs where cats could pounce from. Hanging feeders are best near a bush where a bird can make a quick escape if necessary, and food on the ground should be placed out in the open so the birds are less likely to be caught unawares.
Birds will be more attracted to your garden if you add more vegetation, which means more insects and worms to eat and plenty of cover to hide from predators. You may like to think about installing a bird table (try to look for one with a roof, which will keep food dry and more tempting to birds) and putting up a few bird boxes; both look very sweet and how nice would it be to have birds nesting in your garden? Another great idea is to introduce a bird bath to your garden. Kids especially would love to watch birds cleaning their feathers and letting them dry in the sun. The bird bath will also be useful to those simply looking for a drink.
During a cold snap it is an important time to support wild birds, as insects die off and food becomes scarce. Try to place food in a spot that is sheltered from the wind and food on the ground is best in feeding trays which can be brought in overnight to avoid freezing. A good tip to remember is boiling the kettle and pouring it into the bird bath in winter to unfreeze the water – this may be the only place birds can find to have a drink and you will encourage even more feathered friends.
One idea I came across on Pinterest recently that I really liked for nest building time was a ‘Bird Nest Material Station’
Fill an old feeder with colourful wool threads which the birds will pull out and fly away with to make cheerful and cosy nests! But if you do this, only use wools that are natural and will break down, and keep the pieces very short. This is definitely something we will do in our garden, as well as install a bird bath.
Although I was commissioned to write this post and was provided with some basic facts, the rest I researched and as always opinions are all my own!