ASK THE EXPERT
Feeding birds through the winter
I’d like to feed the birds that regularly visit my back garden over the winter months but I’m unsure what food I can safely leave out. Can you please help?
At Greenbelt we believe it’s important to have a natural environment we can share with many different species, including our feathered friends, an ethos that helps to enrich the UK’s biodiversity.
Feeding birds is an ideal way of helping them through harsher winter months, but remember, too, that a food shortage can happen even in the summer, so it’s a good idea to feed all year round.
The rewards work both ways: you’ll get the chance to see your guests up close and there’s no doubt the blue and great tits, sparrows and starlings, blackbirds and finches and, of course, the festive robins will help get youngsters more enthusiastic about their local wildlife.
As well as nurturing your garden from spring to autumn to provide natural food sources (a subject for another “ask the expert”!), the greater variety of foods you put out, the more birds will come calling.
Mixed seeds are perfect for house sparrows and chaffinches, while goldfinches simply love nyjer seeds. There are many different varieties of shop-stocked mixes to choose for feeders, bird tables and ground feeding.
Blackbirds will love any old fruit simply left on the lawn, while the oft-seen blue tit and slightly shyer coal tit loves peanuts and sunflower seeds.
It’s worth noting here your usually shy dinner guests will only come if they feel safe, so it’s best to hang feeders where there is clear visibility yet safe cover is within reach.
As well as the range of shop mixes and special products from websites such as the excellent www.rspb.org.uk, you can easily create your own menu. Homemade cake is a tasty treat and is made by melting recycled suet or lard and mixing it in a bowl with oats, seeds, nuts, fruit and even a sprinkling of cheese. Allow the mix to cool and break it into bits on your bird table or allow it to set in a plastic tub, which can be hung from a length of string.
Finally, remember to provide access to fresh drinking water: an ornate bird bath would be an ideal Christmas present and means your guests can bathe and drink, but a simple dish or bowl from the kitchen will do the job.
Conor Wilde, Greenbelt