This week my time in the garden has been all about birds. With the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch (BGBW) happening next weekend (28-30th January) I want to have the best chance of seeing the birds that are around in my garden so I can record them. The BGBW is the worlds largest wildlife survey and I have taken part for many years now, often inviting neighbours to join us so we can watch the birds together. You can take part by just watching your own garden or a park for an hour and recording the maximum number of each species of birds that you can see. Or you can join me and others at the Tayport Community Garden this Sunday, 28th of January at 1pm.
Although I like to leave the seed heads on many of my plants for the birds to eat over the autumn and winter I also hang out seeds, peanuts and fat balls. We have put our bird table near a window so that the birds have got used to us being around and are now quite tame. Today I made some fat balls by mixing heated lard with some seed and leaving it to cool in a yoghurt pot with string threaded through it. Once it is to cool I slide the pot off the string leaving a threaded fat ball which I can tie onto a branch.
My garden has been full of blackbirds and fieldfares all winter, eating the apples that have dropped from the trees and that we left out for them. I love the raucous cackle that the fieldfares make as they arrive in groups from the mature ash trees nearby. I can’t believe how the blackbirds have finished off the apples, leaving only the skins.
Although blackbirds are one of our native species, we have many extra visitors from Europe (particularly Scandinavia) at this time of year with up to 15 million birds in the UK just now compared with 10.2 million in the summer months. I have a female black bird that chatters to me in the mornings when I go to fill up the bird feeders, she is always there and lifts my spirits in the dark mornings. We also regularly have 2 or 3 blackbird nests in the garden in the summer, their bright blue eggs are really beautiful and the nestlings comical.
Blackbirds are ground feeders that like to eat worms, berries and fruit but will supplement their diet with seed in the winter. They like raisins too so I sometimes put them out for a treat but usually in cup feeders raised from the grounds or on the bird table, well way from cats.
I have just finished cleaning and sterilizing my bird feeders too. Over the last couple of years a virus has been discovered that particularly affects greenfinches and they can pass it on between birds using the same feeders so it is good to give them a regular clean.
Jobs done, I can now look forward to my garden visitors and I am ready to do my 1 hour watch on 28 or 29th January.