We continue our series on making our gardens great for wildlife.
Water is really important at this time of the year. You may think that because we live in a wet place there is lots of water for birds available, but of course it is also really cold – especially this year – and birds will find puddles frozen and they cannot drink seawater so anything you put out for them is a huge plus.
The best thing to put out is a birdbath. Here are the important characteristics of a birdbath. It is so simple you will have one up in not time at all.
Shallow enough for birds to bathe in.
Clean water – rainwater is best, but if not, you can fill it from the garden tap.
Finally, not frozen. To defrost your birdbath, pour hot water into it every morning. DO NOT ON ANY ACCOUNT PUT IN ANTIFREEZE OR SALT. you can also float stick in the bath. This helps to keep the water moving and not get frozen, so they say. I just put the kettle on and do it as part of the morning ritual as I make coffee.
That’s it, sooooo easy.
You can use any contained or create a small pond using pond liner. My first birdbath was the old baby bath which was no longer used for the boys when they outgrew it. You can fill it with stones to decrease its depth. I also use old bowls, dishes, etc, as long as it is large enough for a bird to have a splash in.
Often people have birdbaths which are placed a little higher in a predator (cat) proof place, so the birds can have a peaceful bath.
Clean the bird bath regularly.
Enjoy watching your feathered friends enjoy themselves.
This article was written by me, Stephanie Sim. I worked in the RSPB for ten years and have worked as a Steiner teacher for almost nine. Together with Jonathan McMurray we both have almost 20 years of educational and forest school experience between us. If you are interested in finding out more about the Forest School sessions we run for your child/ren, school, organisation or club, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
It is a tough time of year for anyone. Our wildlife friends have found it more and more difficult over the passing years as fields are gleaned for every seen and hedge thrashers remove any sustenance from the edges. Urban gardens are increasingly oases for animals to survive over the winter as the very forests are also decimated to be replaced by coniferous plantations which don’t do any awful lot for biodiversity.
So you want to help… what can you do? Even if you have a very very small garden or no garden at all, here are some simple things which won’t cost you a lot of £££. Remember that once you start KEEP GOING. Don’t disappoint the animals who have come to rely on you.
Fruit which is about to go off or which has been sitting in your bowl for an overly long time is a good offering. Share apples, pears and berries. I’ve heard that birds are partial to watermelon as well!!!
You may cut them in half or just chuck them out. Thrushes are mad for them. You could have blackbirds, fieldfares, redwings and song as well as mistle thrushes flocking to you garden.
Breadcrumbs and scraps of cake, etc are also good. If you have a birdtable so much the better. You can make one as a gift for a friend or as a gift for the wildlife in your garden. You could also just SET UP a birdtable. All you need is a tallish structure which is rat proof (think plastic), and a little flat surface. Take your bits of cheese and bread from your breakfast table and put them there. You can also buy bird food for birds which find it hard to hang off feeders like blackbirds and robins
This is the most ubiquitous image of wildlife care. If I have any advise to give you regarding beginner level bird feeding, it is the following:
a. A simple feeder is just as good as a fancy feeder. Birds have no idea what you paid for the feeder. Just get a simple one if you are starting off. You can get a peanut feeder and a seed feeder. The above is a seed feeder. A peanut feeder looks like this.
b. The important thing about feeders is that you must keep them CLEAN. So a simple feeder is much better than a fancy feeder. Please resist the tempation to buy a fancy one until you have found your birdfeeding groove.
Wash them every two weeks with a bottle brush, just hot water and the brush. No need for soap, etc. If you don’t keep them clean they become ground for breeding the botulism bacteria especially in the summer. Birds that die from the botulism bacteria die slow painful deaths as their organs shut down. So wash your feeders. (Incidentally it is also the same bacteria which is used in botox. So, now you know.)
c. A bird table is a good idea if you want to feed birds that cannot cling to feeders – anything which isn’t a tit or finch. Robins can just about do this. But anything else, apart from the acrobatic jay and enterprising squirrel will be unable to use a feeder.
And now the vexing question of feed. There is no two ways about it, if you are putting out 5 kg of feed a day the birds will eat 5 kg of feed, so don’t try and keep up with them or you will be very broke. There is a reason why sparrows were considered vermin (actually, criminally, they still are.)
Put out what you can but do it daily.
Here are some other top tips:
a. Do not, and I repeat NOT, buy birdfood with wheat it in. It a waste of time and money, unless you are planning to grow wheatfield in your garden. The birds will either poop it out or just throw it out. I spent many an amusing morning watching the tits chuck out the wheat grains and just take the other seeds. Also the rats wait under feeders for their wheatfeed.
b. Sunflower seeds, mealworms, etc are all good. All birds love this. You can also get them fatballs and bird ‘cake’.
c. Nyger seeds are the next level of birdfeeding. Only get this if you have goldfinches in your garden. They will need their own biredfeeder.
3. Where to set it up
For the best out of your birdfeeder do the following:-
a. Place your bird feeder at a convenient height so you can reach it to change it. Make sure your cat can’t get at it. So there should be good lines of sight for your birds. I have a cat btw, it has learned there is no point chasing the birds because they will be long gone by the time he gets there.
b. If you have a shrub like a buddleigh or a medium sized tree, this is quite good because the birds can skulk in the shrubbery until they feel safe enough.
c. Put the feeder near enough to a window so you can observe the birds. There are even feeders you can buy that ATTACH to windows. Watching them is the BEST THING EVER!!!!
d. Finally, be patient. It can take up to a week or more if birds don’t know about the feeder. It can take a while to establish itself. However, once it gets going they will be there everyday and if you don’t put food out they will come along and wait until you do!
We have had an amazing month. We have made ink, charcoal, cordage, bows and arrows, held a birthday party already and had more than twenty children through our doors. We have soil tested, counted up frogs, learned how to clear dead wood and remove ivy. And we have only just started.
Thank you to everyone who has been so supportive, especially Joan Woods and Tina Kearsting, our fairy godmothers – without them nothing would have been possible. And of course, the elementals themselves, who have been with us every step of the way. Thank you guys!
Part of our mission is to do some serious Citizen Science – this consists of ordinary people taking part in data gathering or helping scientists do things like figure out complex and puzzling problems. This has been used for everything from doing wildlife surveys to spotting new black holes.
Tomorrow we will be counting the Frogs and hopefully spotting a Smooth Newt or two, in order to start a record of the wildlife on the site.
However, we aren’t JUST doing Citizen Science. We are also doing habitat restoration. This will consist of pruning ivy off trees which are being strangled by the creepers. As lovely as ivy is, it is not great for the trees. So we will be out with pruning saws to give our beautiful trees a chance.
And we will also be lighting a fire in the Main outdoor area and perhaps even giving it a name. It is all go for our first day. Yes it is fun to be outside, but it is also satisfying to be giving back. I do hope you will be able to join us.
You have most probably heard them rather than seen them. They are called the Swift and they spend all their lives in the air.
The Swift’s Latin name is Apus Apus, which means without feet. This is because their feet are so crippled that they can barely use them. They are the ultimate bird as they barely spend any time on land or sea.
They spend all their lives in the air and only come down to breed.
They fly all the way from sub-Saharan Africa and nest in either cliff ledges and caves or the eaves of roofs.
You can tell they are Swifts by how they scream as they fly. They are also known as Devil Bird because of this. Swifts make nest from their saliva. This saliva is harvested in countries like Indonesia. The industry is so huge that there are giant warehouses which house the swifts. The nests are sold for their weight in gold. They are eaten as a dessert or drunk for medicine.
You too can make a kite and fly like a swift!
Or you could get a map out to see where they come from. See how many countries Swift must fly across to get here? Can you name them?
Here are three cool swift facts:
They fly sleeping – half of their brain is asleep when they fly!
They eat flying – they catch insects! This is why places which have lots of insects are great for swifts. They are often found flying above trees! They don’t like flying too near the ground or they could get grounded
If the swift is grounded it cannot fly! To save it you must pick it up and throw it into the air! Isn’t that amazing.
Things you can do for Swifts
Make sure you leave your eaves unblocked if you have Swifts that visit. They are site faithful and return to the same place each year
Plant a wildlife garden
Write to your MLA/MP and ask them to make sure that they have a good policy to look after our heritage buildings and wildlife