• Donnington Grove

Beautiful Birds

In the depth of winter garden birds bring us so much pleasure. Squabbling on feeders, their colours and songs brighten gloomy days.
The Big Garden Bird watch on January 28th and 29th.
Birds play a vital role in our gardens’ ecosystems. They are feathered pest controllers, eating everything from snails to aphids to wind-fall fruits. If you’d like to attract more birds to your garden there are several things to consider. Lots of people hang up a bag of peanuts when the weather turns grim then become disheartened as it hangs there unused. So here are my handy tips.

Food

Experts advise putting out food all year round. There is a dizzying array of bird food available but a good starter mix includes sunflower seeds, canary seed, hemp and husk-free oats. Use a good tube-style feeder and clean it regularly as a build up of bacteria and old food can kill birds. If squirrels are a problem you can buy rodent-proof feeders. I also have one tube-feeder which is set within a sort of cage which keeps larger birds out, letting the smaller ones access the food unimpeded. Protect birds from prowling cats by planting something prickly and ground-hugging around the bird table or feeder – Berberis Darwinii is a good one, but you can also confound cats with a collar, which fits around the bird table stand and prevents them from jumping up.

Plants

Birds like cover so plant shrubs, trees and climbers. If you can manage it a mixed hedge of hawthorn, holly, dog rose, and rowan offers cover and food, and is also very pretty. Train honeysuckle and ivy over arches Train honeysuckle and ivy over arches and pergolas. Pyracantha 'Soleild 'Or', Cotoneaster frigidus 'Cornubia' and rambling roses that will produce lots of rosehips are great for house walls and fences. If you have room for a tree try the bird cherry (Prunus padus) or a crab apple such as Malus 'John Downie'. If you already have boxes, take them down, remove any old nests and rinse the boxes with boiling water to sterilise them.

Nesting

Dozens of bird species make use of nest boxes. Put up new boxes now because birds use the winter to scope out good breeding spots. If you already have boxes, take them down, remove any old nests and rinse the boxes with boiling water to sterilise them. Come the spring put out some extra nesting material for them to grab: sheep wool, pet hair, wool scraps can all be pushed inside a wire cage or a terracotta pot.

Water

A supply of clean water is very important for drinking and bathing. A sloping bath is best to accommodate different bird species, and add a flat stone or two to aid with getting in and out! Keep it topped up and check daily to see that it hasn’t frozen. If it has, melt the ice with warm water. Your feathered friends will thank you. Local Buzz Gardener Fergus Green