Feed the birds: How to ready your garden for winter
My garden is ready for the birds. I've cleaned and refilled the feeders and bird bath, left the borders looking dishevelled, and there are three piles of leaves providing shelter for insects and grubs.
I supplement garden birds' food all year round, but it's in winter when they most need our help. The ground is too hard to dig for worms, while caterpillars, aphids, beetles and grubs are well hidden – hibernating in thick vegetation. If that isn't enough, it's cold, and there are few hours of daylight in which birds can actively search for food.
Small birds like blue tits and wrens are in particular danger of dying on winter nights because they have a large surface area from which to lose heat and it takes a lot of calories just to stay warm. To help them, I leave a daily supply of fresh, clean water, which they use to drink and clean their feathers, and fill my feeders with calorie-rich sunflower hearts and peanuts.
For ground-feeding wrens and migrant birds too shy to visit feeding stations, I put out seeds, cake crumbs, grated cheese, rice and pasta at the back of borders. If you do this, leave small quantities only, so as to avoid the attentions of rats. Last year the snow made ground feeding difficult, so I placed food in a tray, beneath an umbrella. The robin found it easily enough.
There's also plenty of natural food available in gardens, if we allow it. Avoid chopping down ivy until after the birds have had their fill, and grow holly, honeysuckle, guelder rose and hawthorn to provide a long season of calorie-rich berries. You may find you don't need to buy the plants – the blackbirds have donated three ivy seedlings to my garden, although it will be a long time before they provide the fuel birds need to get through winter.
Source: The Guardian
Kate Bradbury writes and commissions wildlife content for Gardeners' World Magazine and writes a weekly blog on gardenersworld.com