Each year, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) run the Big Garden Birdwatch, an event which takes place over a weekend, normally towards the end of January. The idea behind the event is to encourage people, particularly children, to engage more with our wildlife and also to help count numbers for the RSPB survey. In 2016, more than 519,000 people all over the UK counted an incredible 8,262,662 birds!
In 2016, the top ten most commonly spotted birds in gardens, forests, parks and fields all over the country, were house sparrows, starlings, blue tits, blackbirds, wood pigeons, gold finches, chaffinches, great tits, robins and long tailed tits. Your chances of seeing these birds will vary slightly according to the area of the country you’re in, but with some binoculars, the RSPB’s bird identification guide and a notebook and pen, you should be able to cross them all off the list if you’re patient.
Feed the birds
If you’d like to improve your chances, putting a range of tempting bird feed out in the garden will attract featured visitors. Different species prefer different food, but sunflower seeds, nyjer seeds, meal worms, suet, cooked rice and raw oats will appeal to a broad range. Putting all food on bird tables or in proper feeders will help keep it dry, minimise waste and stop rodents getting a free snack! By offering a range of different foods, you’ll boost your chances of attracting a variety of different birds into your garden.
Here are some bird feeder ideas to get you started.
This gift pack, £28 from Boxwild, contains the essentials to help you feed your birds, including three seed blends, a bird feeder, a fruit feeder and a seed scoop.
This beautiful copper peanut feeder, £25.50 from The Farthing, will look better as it ages, and look lovely in your garden even when not in use.
If quirky is your style, then this photo frame bird feeder, £7.99 from Jeremy’s Home Store, is decorative as well as practical.
Give a bird a home
The nesting season is getting underway, as well. Different birds start to nest at different times of year, mostly timed to coincide with the emergence of their favourite food stuff.
For example, bluetits carefully time their nesting so that when the young are born, there’s a new batch of caterpillars to feed them with. Some birds, including pigeons, nest happily almost all year round, but for the majority the ‘courting season’ starts to get into its stride in mid-January.
You’ll hear an increase in birdsong as the birds start to display and look for mates for the season, so now’s the time to install some new nest boxes, or overhaul the old ones.
There’s no reason bird houses shouldn’t be stylish residences! This distinctive wooden bird house in Engraved Flower design by Orla Kiely has drainage holes, a cleaning hatch and hanging loop. Was £29.95, now £23.95 from Annabel James.
The Orkney Bird House, £28 from Garden Trading, ticks all the boxes for a safe, roomy space for small birds to raise a family in your garden. With a 28 mm diameter entrance, only little tenants can get in, keeping larger, pushier birds and predators out.
If your birds have taste, they’ll appreciate this unusual dwelling. The Mrs Birdee birdhouse is designed by Desinature, a French design studio based in the UK, and has a smooth exterior, elegant lines, and clean finish. £19.95, available from Furnish.co.uk.
Birds need fresh water too, so if it’s cold enough for puddles to be frozen they’ll appreciate a saucer of water as well as food. Happy spotting!