I'm about to inflict on you some of the worst wildlife photography you will ever see, but I hope it makes an important point about bird-friendly gardens.

Here's the first of the shots, taken in my garden today (I said the photos were bad!):

It shows two Greenfinches and a Goldfinch (there, at least you now have the game of finding all three!) t the top of my Walnut tree.

The reason for showing you this is to demonstrate the importance of elevated perches for many of our garden birds.

The subject is fresh in my mind because I received an email this week from a couple who were mystified why they weren't getting many bird visitors to their garden, despite all their efforts. I asked if they could send me some photos, and I immediately saw the problem. Their garden was in a new-build development and, although they had planted their garden beautifully, there just weren't any routes down into the garden for the birds.

The thing is that many birds seem to need what I call 'vertical stepping stones'. A birdfeeder that is six foot off the ground might seem quite high to us, but to a bird it is down in the bottom of a deep and dangerous 'pit', so they need to drop down to it step by step. Have a look at this photo I took in a new development show garden:

It's all very lovely and lush at ground level, but think what route a bird would have to take to get down to any feeder here - it would have to take its life in its hands and 'drop' almost vertically between the cliff walls of our houses, down into a place where there might be cats, people, predators...

So what many birds like to do is start at the top of a tall tree, with wonderful views all around. Here they can survey for danger and, if the coast seems clear, drop down to a lower vantage point and check again. Down they come, step by step, and if they feel a bit nervous, up they return to the tops where they know they are pretty safe.

So my Greenfinches, Goldfinches, Chaffinches, Wood Pigeons and Collared Doves (below) all do that, while the Great Tits and Blue Tits tend to start in the middle of a tree, again quite high, before also coming down in stages into the pit.

The incredible height of trees also allows some birds the safe space to do sociable things, such as these Starlings (below), which never come into my garden but here were across the road from me in the local park. Every day they head here to have a group singsong, preen and watch the world go by where no-one can get to them.

This is a perfect topic for February because now is the best time to plant trees. Bought as bare-root saplings, they are incredibly cheap and so much easier to lug around and pop in the ground than a tree in a pot. Ok, so it will be a while before they become the top rung in your 'bird ladder', but the sooner they go in, the sooner they will grow - and trees grow so much quicker than most people believe is possible. Look at how fast this tree grew in my garden when I planted it in 2016

The couple who contacted me had done just that and planted a number of trees in their garden that at this stage are just skinny whips. However, I was able to predict that within the next two years the trees will have grown enough for tit and finch visits to become regular. And when those birds do come, wow, those gardeners will be able to feel a glow of justifiable pride, for it will be their bird stepping stones that will have helped it happen. 

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