Helping our Feathered Friends...

It's hard to miss the fact that our climate is ever changing, and as a result, nature continually has to adapt.
Some of our well-loved British wild bird species have reported declining numbers, but there are simple steps that you can take to make a difference. No matter how big or small your garden, or even if you don’t have any outside space at all, you can still get involved.
January the 27th to 29th 2023, is the Big Garden Birdwatch and this fun and free activity is a wonderful opportunity to help the RSPB monitor how British wild birds are faring. To order your pack and take part simply visit their website.

Why is the count so important?

By getting involved, you will be taking action to protect our birds for generations to come. In the last 50 years we have lost 38 million birds from UK skies. House Sparrows and Starlings have declined, and this is probably the most obvious difference we have noticed in our immediate surroundings.

Bringing them in

Before you start your count it’s a good idea to get prepared. If you haven’t already got one, add a feeder or bird table to your outside space and keep it clean as disease can be an issue for some species. Don’t forget to keep it topped up too! It’s a good idea to hang your feeder at least a week before the count begins so that the birds can adjust and get used to this safe space. Don’t be disappointed if not many birds visit straight away, it takes time for them to find you!
Why not add a bird bath? A simple large plant pot saucer is just as effective as a conventional bird bath while keeping costs to a minimum. A terracotta or stone one is best as it will not blow away in high winds. Keep it clean and full to the brim.
Both Greenfinch and Chaffinch numbers have dropped significantly due to a disease that spreads from contaminated feeders and water containers. Once a week, wash your feeders and water bowls in warm soapy water before refilling.
If you have no garden a balcony, window or local park is just as effective for the count. You could also use a window feeder – an ideal way to sit back and relax in the comfort of your own home!

What’s on the menu?

We’ve talked about adding feeders to your outside space – but what do wild birds eat?
Winter is a time when natural food is in short supply so providing food, especially in these harsh months, is essential.
There are lots of different bird foods available on the market, including seed mixes, peanuts, fat balls and suet. These are ideal for feeders and bird tables, but some birds are ground feeders. Blackbirds for example will eat a broad range of foods, from suet to mealworms, which you can place on your bird table or on a tray on the ground.
Blue Tits and Great Tits use both feeders and bird tables and they eat seeds as well as suet and peanuts, whereas Chaffinches and Greenfinches love sunflower hearts. Be careful to look out for feed that includes ‘fillers’ like dried peas and beans. Birds do not eat these so you will be wasting your money. Our Bird Care department is stocked with good quality feed that is carefully blended to meet the specific needs of wild bird’s dietary requirements.

Where do I put my feeder?

Feeders can attract more birds depending on where you place them. For example, a noisy, busy area may not be as successful as somewhere quieter. Where possible, aim to place your feeders in a safe place that is not too close to bushes or cover as predators can easy hide there before striking.
However, feeders should be close enough to cover that the birds can easily flit to and fro. This a careful balance as birds like to have a view all around them while feeding but also somewhere close by to hide. Make sure your feeder is sheltered from harsh winds too as this can disturb them to the point of retreating entirely.

Don’t stop there!

Ideally, feeding our wild birds shouldn’t just be for the count. Why not feed them all year round and continue your great work?
If you place your feeder in an area where you can watch them in comfort, it can develop into a new hobby. It has been scientifically proven that bird watching is good for our mental and physical health.
Invest in a good bird identification book and learn about the different species that have come to trust your little place on earth where they can thrive. Once you have birds feeding regularly in your garden why stop there? Add a nest box or two and add breeding spaces to this haven you have created for them. Don’t expect an instant result though. Wild birds are cautious, timid little things and it could take a while for them to feel confident to use your boxes. Be patient - you might not get a visitor even after a year, as they will need to be certain the area is safe and will need to check the site out time and time again before they commit.

Hanging your nest box in the right location is essential for success. Most species of bird require that the box is hung up at least 4 metres from the ground and don’t forget to attach it securely! The number one rule though is DO NOT DISTURB! If you are lucky enough to have a resident, then simply leave them to it and watch from a safe distance.
As individuals, installing a bird feeder may seem like an insignificant task, but there are so many of us out there that want to help this worthy cause, collectively we can achieve great things for our wildlife.