This January, bird is the word! Our feathered friends are great for our gardening gambit.
But as we get ready to take part in the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch, on the 25-27th January, it’s time to get to know the wild and common birds that bless our garden’s throughout the year and learn what makes them so wonderful.
Ave some fun
The more you learn about birds, the more you’ll love them. And this interest spans the generations, so it’s fun for the whole family. Share these informative tit-bits with loved ones…
- The bird that’s a staple in most gardens at this time of year is the robin and they’re known as the gardener’s friend because as ground foragers they often watch gardeners in wait for an unearthed worm or insect.
- A pair of robins only weigh as much as one chicken’s egg, yet these little birds have been known to donate food to feed the chicks of other birds
- Wrens are known to nest in strange places. You might find them in greenhouses, hanging baskets or even in the pocket of laundry on the washing line from February onwards.
- Rather than forage for food alone, Great tit couples often forego food in order to stay close to their partner—on whom they rely to raise young.
- There are 620 species of bird on the official British list and the birds local to you all depend on where in the country you reside.
As bird populations differ regionally, to some extent, we’ve all got our own idea of what “garden birds” are, depending on which are most common to the area we live.
For instance, green woodpecker populations have been increasing in South East areas of the UK but not in Scotland.
Bullfinches have been seen to increase in western parts of the UK, including Ireland, and the same goes for swallows.
Goldcrests and coal tits have shot up in number within Scottish regions, whereas you’re most likely to see Great Tits in the Midlands.
Join the flock
To find out what you’ve got in your plot, sign up for the RSPB’s Garden Birdwatch 2020.
It will open you up to a world on winged wonder. The idea is to get counting the birds that visit your garden and make a note of what you see. Involve the whole family or observe on your own—you’ll be joining over half a million people who take part every year.
All you have to do is sign up via rspb.org.uk and they’ll send you a pack with everything you need. Last year’s survey results confirmed that the top three birds sighted in 2019 were house sparrows, starlings and blue tits.
It’s vital that this work continues so that we can better understand our local bird populations and how they’re changing.
A garden tweet
Another perk is that birds do wonders for our green spaces.
Not only can they eat thousands of insects, but finches and sparrows also help to control weed populations by eating the seed heads. Some bird species even contribute to plant pollination!
Blue tits, for instance, have been found to feed on the nectar of Fritillaria imperialis (Crown imperial) when in flower during spring. As well as this, birds in the garden can be uplifting to hear and see every day.
Research shows that watching garden birds can make people less anxious and depressed—even when not in a rural area.
If you’ve got young kids around, encouraging garden birds into your garden gives an opportunity for learning and interacting with wildlife. This can be really rewarding for them and is a good way to spend time together outside in the fresh air.
To attract birds to your plot all you need to do is provide them with food, water and shelter. There’s advice on how to do this on my website, daviddomoney.com. Once you make a start, birds will begin to come back quite frequently—especially during the winter when they rely on a continual supply of food and other water sources may be frozen.
Here are my top tips for spotting birds where you are:
- Get proactive. Birds are most visible when the sun rises and sets and they’re on the hunt for food, so try and use these times of day to observe your garden become aflutter with feathered life.
- Use your senses. Watching from inside your home can be really relaxing but birds sounds are a great way to seek out sights you may miss looking from the window—plus their song is lovely to hear!
- Be consistent. Birds will often return to the same garden once they know there’s a reliable source of food, but they can take some time to spot it. So get into a routine of putting out food and water every day, if need be.
Ivy is an all-round win for birds!
The foliage provides nesting and shelter, berries provide winter
food sources and autumn flowers attract insects to eat.
Now you know the wonders of winged wildlife, make you garden bird-abundant and it’ll reward you with brilliant birdwatching and a plentiful green oasis.
Happy gardening everyone!
Last spring slugs destroyed my new growth; how can I prevent it this year?
In spring, slugs can often damage new growth on herbaceous plants. If slug populations are high, it means there aren’t enough predators to keep them in check. Encourage birds, hedgehogs, frogs and toads into the garden to help. Raking over your soil during winter will expose eggs for birds to eat.
Is it too early to begin maintaining my bird boxes?
No, now’s a great time to check over bird boxes and make sure they’re secure ready for February when birds begin nesting. Remove the previous year’s nesting material and make sure it’s sanitary by using boiling water to sterilize. New nesting sites should be introduced from autumn onwards, to give birds a chance to prospect them.
David Domoney is a Chartered Horticulturalist, Broadcaster, and Author. David has worked with a number of the UK’s leading garden retailers as a plant buyer and strategic consultant. With more than 30 years experience, in horticulture, David is as passionate about plants now as he was when he bought his first plant at a village fete.
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