With the sudden onset of winter (had to scrape the car twice this week!) it is very much that time of year to start considering your feather friends at home. Birds require high energy feeds during the winter months to maintain their fat reserves to see them through the cold times. If you don’t think its going to get cold, then let me tell you that the Penguins are currently eating loads and in my experience, it means its going to be cooooolllllddddddd.
For the birds visiting your garden it is very important to stick to a routine as the birds, as our do here, will get used to being fed at a certain time. If it is really cold then you may consider feeding the garden birds at least twice during the day.
Presentation of food can be done in several ways. Bird tables are a good option for many food types and many types of bird as well. A roof is not essential but will keep the food dry. Make sure the roof is detachable for use of cleaning and removal of left over food. Its also worth adding a rim around the side to stop spillage and maybe attracting rats.
Bird feeders are available is a range of shapes and sizes and come in two types, nut feeders and seed feeders. Nut feeders are made of steel mesh whilst seed feeders are tubes with holes in. Mesh feeders are best avoided as they can cause injury to beaks, toes and claws
You can also make your own home made feeding devices. Fat balls, half coconuts and food bells are all easy to make at home, check out the RSPB website for ideas. You can also hide food and make the birds work for it, as they naturally do. Placing fatty foods such as suet in cracks in fence posts is great for tits, woodpeckers and even wrens.
In terms of what to feed then there is a vast array that you can provide, depending on the species. Nuts are a favourite for Tits, Woodpeckers and Nuthatch. Do not use salted or roasted peanuts as they can kill. Niger seed is a favourite with Goldfinch and this may be why their numbers seem to be on a huge increase. Siskins also love nijer. Black sunflower seed will attract most birds whilst mixed wild bird food will include Millet (great for House Sparrow and dunnock) whilst wheat seed will bring in Doves, Pigeons and Pheasant. Livefood such as mealworm will bring the Robins to the garden and may attract other insect eaters such as wagtail.
Fruit and berries are the thing for blackbirds and some of their incoming Thrush cousins for the winter. Redwing and Fieldfare are starting to arrive in numbers and love fallen fruit. Natural berries may even bring Waxwing to your garden.
Milk and vegetable oils should always be avoided at all cost as the birds cannot digest them properly, although cheese is fine. Pet food can be put out but will attract larger species such as Magpie.
Water should always be provided as well during the winter, particularly during the frosty months.
Hygiene is vital, regular cleaning of feeders and tables, and the removal of old food, will ensure your birds stay salmonella free. Salmonella is a big reason why Greenfinches are struggling.
We have been topping up our feeders with renewed effort these past few weeks and are already starting to see the rewards. In Marshmouth Reserve the feed station by the Lodge is currently the place to be. This morning, in 5 minutes, I recorded Blue, Great & Coal Tit, Chaffinch, Bullfinch, Goldfinch, Dunnock, Wren, Robin & Greater Spotted Woodpecker. We are starting to see large numbers of Redwing and Fieldfare over head and it won’t be long before they start dropping in. Starlings seem abundant, and whilst not in the huge numbers you see in Somerset, a good 50 or so were dropping in to roost last night. Canada Geese are moving overhead in numbers of 30 or so and Black Headed Gull numbers have swollen from 30 to about 100. There is one Black Head with a ring who has been ever present every winter for the past 5 years and I’d love to catch him just to see where and when he was rung. Kingfisher and Grey Wagtail are still busy along the river and there is still the odd Wasp around!
In news from the park, its been pretty quiet this week.
2 Military Macaws departed to the Parrot Zoo in Lincolnshire and we have got 2 new male Bearded Dragons, a Leopard Gecko & and Electric Blue Gecko for the education team. These arrived from a private breeder in Chipping Norton.
Tonight will see us attempt (note the word attempt) to shut in the Ibis and Greater Flamingos overnight for the first time this winter. With just 2 keepers easier said than done!
The forecast for next week is pretty grim with rumours of snow so we are busy with our contingency plans – what needs to be moved where should the snow come down heavily. Extra feeds are being made up in case staff cannot get in and space is being made in any available sheds. Hopefully we will be OK but better to be safe than sorry.
There are major roadworks ongoing on the A429 just outside the village. It is a little chaotic but the village and park are still accessible from all directions.
Hope to see you next week and keep warm all