Yesterday there was a frantic scramble at the breakfast table – there was a fieldfare in the birch tree – the first we’d ever seen in our garden. Later, as I drove down the Bedfordshire lanes on the way to visit a friend, I saw fieldfare in the hedgerows and when I arrived there were redwings and fieldfare in her garden – again the first they’d ever seen. In the last few days, thousands of fieldfare and redwings have arrived from Northern Europe and they’ve been seeking out gardens in search of food and shelter. There have been so many that the RSPB organised an impromptu redwing and fieldfare count today and reports of large flocks have been sent in from all over the country.
It’s a rare treat to see these birds so close to home, but they are visiting gardens because of the harsh weather and they act as a reminder that all garden birds need our help in the cold weather. The RSPB recommend:
- providing fatty food, making fat balls and homemade bird cakes, and putting out kitchen scraps such as mild grated cheese, porridge oats and soaked, chopped currants, although be aware that currants are poisonous to dogs
- providing water – with a ping pong ball in the bowl to stop it freezing or putting out juicy fruit like apples and pears
- providing shelter – nest boxes work well and will be used by garden birds like long-tailed tits for roosting
- offering winter shelter such as in evergreen climbers, dense hedges like privet and hawthorn, and evergreen shrubs and trees
- even if you don’t have bird boxes or evergreen shelter, the RSPB advises propping a bucket up sideways or grouping plants in containers together to provide some shelter from the wind
Considering the fact that around one quarter of a typical UK city comprises private gardens and that the total area of UK gardens is roughly equivalent to an area one fifth the size of Wales, the potential for gardeners to make a real difference to the fate of our garden birds is clear. Our birds need a little help from us and in return we get to watch one of nature’s most beautiful sights from the comfort of our own homes.
What birds has the Beast from the East brought to your garden this week? Do you have any tips for ways to help our garden birds through this cold spell? Please leave your comments below. Thank you.
More information on feeding garden birds is available from the RSPB website.