Planning and a bit of common sense needed

Feeding the birds can attract beauties like this nuthatch into your garden.
Feeding the birds can attract beauties like this nuthatch into your garden.

With December newly underway, it’s time to start thinking about the important things of the season – no not Christmas shopping – feeding the birds in your garden!

To do it successfully without incurring any unnecessary problems, it takes a bit of forethought, planning and a smattering of common sense.

There’s more to it than chucking out all your surplus bread and leftovers – that will only invite a rodent invasion, which could be classed as feeding the local wildlife, but when they start to come indoors looking for seconds, then it’s too late to cut down on the portions. A visit from the local pest control officer is required – not the best Christmas present in the world!

You should only put out enough for the birds to eat in a day to avoid stuff lying around overnight. Try and feed them on an area which is easy to clean regularly, such as a patio.

Feeding above gravel or grass creates problems of seeds germinating and is difficult to keep clean. Position your hanging feeders high enough to avoid cat attack, but close enough to thick shrubbery to provide a safe refuge in the event of a sparrow hawk raid. The same principles apply to bird tables, which need to be cleaned regularly to avoid the spread of avian disease between visitors.

You can also make up your own recipe for a kind of bird “cake”. I mix up lard and plain flour until I get a bread crumb consistency. Then add a little water until I get a dough. At this stage you can mix in bird seed, sultanas or peanuts then work it all together with your hands. It is now ready to use. It can be pushed into holes drilled in a log then hung up or used in a bought suet feeder. The birds love it and there’s no cooking required!

It is a mistake to buy the “budget” mixes of bird seed, as the weight is made up mainly by using loads of wheat. If you don’t have lots of pigeons or doves coming to the garden, then that wheat will be left – more rodent food. I buy a songster mix which is quite cheap and add a bag of sunflower hearts and a bag of dried mealworms. There’s never any left at the end of the day.

Finally, a word about peanuts. If you notice that the birds have stopped visiting your peanut feeder, it is best to take it down and look at the contents. The nuts are probably starting to go mouldy and this can produce toxins which are harmful to birds. In mild, wet weather, this can happen fairly quickly. These are a few handy hints to aid successful bird feeding in your garden. Do it right and you will be rewarded by hours of entertainment from our feathered friends. As well as food, a dish of water should also be provided. If you have any feeding tips or special recipes, drop me an e-mail to corbie@homecall.co.uk