Thursday, October 28, 2010

What to Feed Birds in the Winter

As we slowly head towards winter, the wildlife concious amongst us will be thinking about how we can support our feathered friends through the cold months. So the question is, what do you put in your bird feeder?

There are a range of seed mixes available, but it is a good idea to look carefully at the quality.  Different birds will prefer different seeds, so depending on which birds frequent your garden you may find that some seeds are taken quicker than others. The decent seed mixes will include sunflower seeds, peanut granules and flake maize. Other additions may include pinhead oatmeal (which is good for most birds) and wheat and barley grains (which are really only suitable for larger ground feeding birds). Mixes containing whole nuts and larger chunks are really only suitable for feeding in the winter.

You should avoid mixes that include split peas, dried rice or lentils as these are only added to cheap brands to increase the bulk and can only be eaten dry by larger species of birds. You may also find some cheaper brands include green or pink lumps - these are actually dog biscuits, so should be avoided!

Black sunflower seeds are a great food to put on your bird feeder and can be fed all year round. They have a higher oil content than the ordinary striped seeds so are better nutritionally.

Some birds, such as tits, greenfinches, woodpeckers and nuthatches, are particularly fond of peanuts. If you crush or grate the nuts you may attract other birds such as robins or dunnocks. However, do not use salted or dry roasted nuts as the salt content is too high for small birds.

Fat balls that you can buy for birds are great for birds during the winter months. You can make your own using melted suet or lard onto a mixture of seeds, nuts, oatmeal and/or dried fruit. Leave it to set in a container and you are ready to go. Do not use fat that has been used for cooking, particularly for cooking meat as this is not good for birds. Also do not try and make fat balls with polyunsaturated margarines or vegetable oils.

Something else to consider to encourage birds to your garden is a bird house. There are a range available, but you should bear in mind that the type you buy will vary according to what sort of bird you want to attract.

Hopefully this coming winter will not be as severe as the last one, but even so our garden birds will certainly benefit from whatever assistance we can give them.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Approaching Autumn and Our First Walnut Harvest

We planted a walnut tree a few years ago with the hope that one day we might actually get some walnuts from it. Well this year we have finally had our first few.

 OK, so four is hardly enough to start a walnut whip factory, but it's a start!

Nuts falling from trees is another sign (if we needed one) that autumn is on its way. This year it feels that we are slowly and very gradually sliding towards autumn rather than a sudden drop in temperature that we get some years. All the signs are here that summer has left us; the swallows have left and flown south, the ground is permanently damp, the leaves are starting to turn golden brown and the days are getting shorter. However, today the sun was out and it almost felt like summer. I say almost as it was certainly not as warm and the sun was lower in the sky casting long shadows. But it certainly did not feel like mid October. I even still have tomatoes ripening in the greenhouse.

It feels that at some point soon temperatures will suddenly plummet and we will plunge into a frosty, or windy and rainy winter. This feeling is somewhat amplified by children (adverts on TV) mentioning that event that signifies for me mid winter, short days and long nights. I will say it very quietly so as not to panic you too much..... Christmas!!!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

My Friend, the Robin

Recently around the garden I have been followed everywhere by this little robin. I first saw it a few weeks ago when I was in what we rather grandly call, "the orchard". Actually its a small corner of the garden with a few fruit trees, but we allow ourselves delusions of grandeur at times. I was picking some damsons and there it was, flitting from branch to branch, watching me intently. Since then, I have noticed that whenever I am outside doing something, he (or she?) is there close by keeping an eye on me.

Sometimes it gets extremely close; almost close enough to reach out and touch it. Not that it would let me of course. I like to think that it has come to keep me company while I am busy doing various jobs. Of course, it is doing nothing of the sort. It knows that whatever I am doing, I am providing food, whether that should be unearthing insects as I dig, or dropping bits of fruit as I pick them off the trees. I think actually it just sees me as a source of food!

Up until now it has proved to be rather camera shy, flying off into the bushes every time I go in to get the camera. Today though, I was digging out some holes for some fence posts and there it was, right next to me. This time I managed to get some pictures, most of which were quite blurred as it refused to stand still!

It is still remarkably mild at the moment for October, but as it gets colder we will put out some food for the birds that visit our garden. Hopefully this will help to see them through until the spring. We usually buy ours from the RSPB Shop as the profits are put back in to helping birds and other wildlife.