Brrrrrrrrr! It's Thursday afternoon as I write this, the sun has just set, and I've just come in from outside where most of the frost hadn't lifted all day. I swear I've got icicles forming on my appendages.

The ice on the pond had formed dramatic starbursts today...

..while rime attractively picked out all the veins on fallen leaves.

It's alright for us, diving into our centrally heated houses, but you've got to feel for all the birds that are stuck out there. I left my Robins still merrily singing away, and Long-tailed Tits were perkily working their way along a hedge to wherever they're going to roost for the night (with them, the roost site can shift from one night to the next).

But as they go to bed, they face 15 hours of 'chilling out'; literally. Every day they have a challenge to replenish their supplies to see them through the long nights.

So what are garden birds finding to eat out there?

It is tempting to immediately think they are looking for berries, but most of mine are long gone, bar the orange berries on the Gladdon Lily (such a nicer name than Stinking Iris). There is clearly something not especially palatable about these, or surely they would have been gobbled up.

The berries that are much more favoured at this time of year are the less showy ones of Ivy:

Ivy berries are brilliant in three ways:

1) They are stuffed full of fat, much more so than most berries

2) They ripen in winter

3) They ripen sequentially - you can see in the bunches above that some are fully darkened, while others are still green.

But many birds are also looking for tiny morsels: dead insects, moth eggs, a centipede or two, a little slug here and there.

Yes, give them a top-up of supplementary food, but the accompanying smorgasbord of natural titbits is important, too, and happens when you have looked after your garden or outside space in a wildlife-friendly way.

So cheer when you see your Blackbird rootling around through the leaves you've left, or when your Blue Tits are investigating every twig on the trees and bushes you planted, because they are all a vital part of keeping our garden birdlife going.

Anonymous