The beginners struggle to get birds to your feeders is, for some, a tricky one. I thought that I had it nailed in early January of this year when the week before the Big Garden Birdwatch I had four beautiful jays ground-feeding in my garden, Mr & Mrs blackbird enjoying the veg patches, and some lovely blue tits on the feeder. One week later and all I could muster for the big weekend was two collared doves trying to balance on one of the mesh trays attached to my feeding station (at one point I thought it would topple over).
Here we are, 11 months later and I haven’t seen much since. As wild food for the birds becomes thin on the bushes and trees and the cold weather making a move, I spent a couple of hours this weekend trying to switch things up in hopes that our feathered friends become accustomed to a new diner in time for Big Garden Birdwatch 2019. Only time will tell if it works but here are some tips and advice I learnt from colleagues, RSPB webpages and the land of Google.
Excusing the sorry state of my lawn, these Jays seemed to be enjoying a feast (Photo credit: Emma Lacy)
Why isn’t my garden a frenzy of birds?
The first question I needed an answer to was why my garden was empty besides a grey squirrel burying its nuts. My house is fairly close to a railway line (it’s not as bad as you think) and along that railway line are bushels of berries galore. It doesn’t surprise me, based on that, there has been less action in the garden. But my gut (and the internet) tells me it probably isn't just that.
There are a few things that I needed to consider, my feeders, the location of the feeding station, the types of food and the nearby vegetation.
As the weather cools and food sources are scarce, I look forward to welcoming back Mr & Mrs Blackbird. Photo credit: Chris Gomersall (rspb-images.com)
What’s on the menu?
Having options is potentially more likely to increase your garden menagerie. A mix of suet, nuts and seeds is a good bet. I have several different feeders, mesh trays provide an open source of lunch for blackbirds and, of course, the chunky collared dove, where my seed feeder is perfect for smaller birds such as finches and house sparrows. I also have a peanut feeder and a ground feeder, and hang up suet for those especially cold days.
Small seeds will beckon house sparrows, finches and collared doves to your feeders. Peanuts and sunflower seeds are favoured by tits. And the dinner bell chimes for Mr & Mrs Blackbird's flaked maize. And goldfinches seem to go wild for a nyger seed so I've just put a nyjer seed feeder on my Christmas list.
Basically put together an irresistible menu and winged wanderers should hopefully arrive. You can find even more tips here.
These collared doves look a lot more stable than the ones on my feeding station. Photo credit: Chris Gomersall (rspb-images.com)
Location, location, location
A little bit of shelter goes along way with our avian pals. Ideally feeders should be placed near foliage that can provide a hide for birds to assess the area. I’m fortunate enough to have crab apple and cherry trees on the other side of my garden fence. One of which is home to a greater spotted woodpecker who I’m hoping to lure to my feeders this year.
However, you should avoid putting them in the path of our furry friends, for example next doors cat. Moving them away from garden fences and walls is your best bet to avoid unwanted catualties. You could also plant something prickly around the base of your feeder for a super safe haven.
Hanging your feeder from a tree provides extra shelter. Photo credit: Nigel Blake (rspb-images.com)
Bushels of berries
If your garden is a well-manicured lawn with little to no foliage then you had better get planting. From small shrubs to climbers and trees, providing an extra safe space for birds is far more likely to see birds become a part of your home and I personally find a jungle of a garden a great comfort. As you can see from my first picture.
But you can also provide scrummy food in the form of plants. Song thrushes, blackbirds and redwings will be heading to holly berries come late winter. Ivy brings bees in autumn and robins in winter. Finches find shelter and food in the climber honeysuckle (also perfect for the smaller garden). And, in the cold of this year’s “Beast from the East”, the Nature’s Home inbox was alive with photos of fieldfares on various berries. If you would like to attract fieldfares to your garden plant a rowan or crab apple tree.
Winter berries provide extra food. Photo credit: Ben Hall (rspb-images.com)
Hopefully these tips help you and help me to bring more birds to your garden in time for Big Garden Birdwatch 2019. You can find out more on how to take part between 26th and 28th January 2019 here. Good luck to you all and I’ll report back on my luck post weekend.
Any tips for apartment dwellers? We’ve had several window feeders with different foods all badged as “must eats” but only had one glimpse of a blue tit in months. No balcony space for plants but there is a hedge across the pathway from us but a lower level. Do we just give up?
Hi Electroblonde (good name!)
Those like you who only have window feeders certainly have a tough challenge, and every visit is a victory. The main tips I can offer are: make sure the food is always fresh, so if few birds visit, then only put a little bit out in the feeder at a time. Old food will just be ignored. And if you can encourage any of your neighbours to put a window feeder up and a nestbox or two, there's more of a chance that the any birds that visit will enjoy the fact there is more than one cafe to feed at. Finally, if there is any way to increase the greenery near you, especially with tree planting, you;ll boost your chances. But, yes, then you'll need all the patience you can muster, for it is the getting them in in the first place that is the challenge. Once that's achieved, it should get easier
Thanks Adrian! And I hope that helps Electroblonde :)
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