Many foods we enjoy are also hits with the birds, especially during the colder months when there are fewer natural food sources available and they need extra calories to stay warm.
Try sprinkling some of these treats on your bird table and see which birds come along. Maybe you'll see robins or starlings or you may be lucky enough to see a winter migrant bird such as a redwing.
Some ideas :
Another great option is packaged food. Sparrows, tits and finches will visit feeders containing nuts, fat or seed mixtures. Insect-eaters including dunnocks, robins, starlings and wrens prefer mealworms, while suet-based products are an all-round crowd-pleaser, their high calories providing a boost for birds through the cold nights.
As for drinks – water is key for birds, both to drink and to clean their feathers so they’re in tip-top condition to fly and keep themselves warm. Birds can find it harder to find water in the winter as ponds start to freeze, so they appreciate a bird bath. Even a dustbin lid with some stones at the bottom for grip will do the job. Water keeps freezing? Try floating a ping pong ball on the surface. The slightest gust of wind will keep the ball moving and stop the water turning to ice.
You can also help your neighbourhood birds by taking part in the Big Garden Birdwatch. Every year for the past four decades the RSPB has asked people to look outside and let them know which birds they see over the course of an hour. This helps keep track of how garden birds are faring. Last year a record-breaking one million people joined in. You can take part on the 28, 29, or 30 January 2022, so for your FREE Big Garden Birdwatch guide, which includes an RSPB shop voucher and advice on how to help you attract wildlife to your garden, text BIRD to 70030 or visit www.rspb.org.uk/birdwatch. Registration opens 8 December 2021. (images copyright Ben Andrew/ Chris Gomersal/ RSPB)
Garden birds benefit most from extra food during winter, but will visit garden feeders year round once they know they’re there. Feeders can be made from materials you probably have at home already - simply hang them up in a tree, from a post, bracket or even a washing line. The ideal spot is somewhere that doesn’t get disturbed too much, is sheltered and offers plenty of visibility so birds can see any danger coming (like neighbourhood cats). Put small amounts of food out at first, so you don’t get waste that might attract unwanted visitors.
Some birds, including robins, prefer feeding from a flat surface, so you could put out a tray, table or dish of seeds to suit them.
What you will need
See the National Trust website for lots more ideas and inspiration
all images copyright National Trust
Making a pine cone feeder. Click on images to enlarge.
YouTube Videos on how to make easy feeders from a mug and a toilet roll holder HERE
The RSPB has collected top ten signs of spring that you may see from your garden:
3 Migrants returning – spring sees the return of migrant birds to the UK. In your garden you may be able to admire swooping swifts, marvel at sand martins balancing on telephone wires or hear the nightingales chirping call.
4 Bats waking up – you may start to see bats coming out to feast on insects in your garden – a single pipistrelle bat can eat 3,000 gnats in one night!
5 Bluebells – if you have any bluebells, now is the best time of year to see them burst into bloom, transforming the ground into a sea of blue.
6 Dragonflies return - the common darter dragonfly will start to come out. These regular visitors to gardens perch on vegetation, walls, fences, garden canes and washing lines as they wait to catch their prey, which, for a common darter dragonfly, is pretty much anything they can catch.
7 Frogspawn in ponds/toadlets emerging - If you have a pond in your garden, you may start to see tiny toadlets emerging. They love juicy insect larvae, spiders, slugs and worms, so you can create a toad haven by making your garden as insect-friendly as possible. Leave your leaves to dissolve in the ground rather than raking them up, planting wildflowers, or building a bug hotel!
8 Blossoms – if you’ve got crab apple or cherry trees in your garden they’ll be starting to burst into bloom. Bees love crab apple’s pink blossoms, while the cherry tree blossom holds both the male and reproductive parts in the same flower.
9 Grass snakes waking up - Grass snakes start to wake up from hibernation around now to look for a mate, so you might see one in your garden or park. The females lay eggs in places such as compost heaps where the rotting vegetation can keep the eggs nice and warm, so be sure to check any piles in your garden before moving them.
10 Dawn chorus for early risers on light mornings – from around March to July birds are looking to defend their territories and attract a mate, which means an early start! The first birds start singing about an hour before sunrise, with skylarks, song thrushes, robins and blackbirds starting off the choir. The early part of the day is perfect for birds, dark enough that predators can’t see them and the still air can carry song about 20 times as far. There’s always the RSPB bird radio if you can’t get enough and want to listen to birdsong throughout the day.
To highlight the crisis that that nature is facing and the loss of over 40 million wild birds from the UK in just half a century, The RSPB is releasing a specially-created track of birdsong titled ‘Let Nature Sing’. The single contains some of the most recognisable birdsongs that we used to enjoy but which now are on their way to disappearing forever. A compilation of beautiful sound recordings of birds with powerful conservation stories include the Cuckoo, Curlew, Nightingale, Crane and Turtle Dove who form part of the dawn chorus choir.
The track is designed to help reconnect the nation with nature, helping people find a moment to relax and promote a feeling of tranquillity, as birdsong has been proven to aid mental health and promote feelings of wellbeing. The single uses entirely new sound recordings by an RSPB birdsong expert, recorded on nature reserves and other places around the UK.
Martin Harper, RSPB Director of Conservation said: “Nature is falling silent; over the last 50 years we’ve lost a quarter of the birds that used to sing and soar in our skies. We’re losing our connection with nature so we’re using music to put it back on the agenda by releasing a track of pure uninterrupted birdsong. Children today grow up with much less birdsong in the soundtrack to their lives. We’re asking people to show their support and concern for nature by downloading the single and enjoying the benefits that birdsong brings into our lives, but also helping to get nature noticed.”
Although the track is not designed to raise funds and the download price is the minimum permitted under chart rules; any proceeds raised will go to help the charity’s 200 UK nature reserves, where a home for the birds featured on the single is created and protected for future generations to enjoy.
Photos: Kevin Sawford ,Craig Churchill ,David Tipling ,Richard Brooks (rspb-images.com)
I'm Gilly, award winning journalist, travel writer and 12 x author. Published credits include the Telegraph, Mail, CNN, Express, BBC magazines, The Lady, Take a Break, etc