January 24, 2018

Alan Titchmarsh: Look after our feathered friends during the colder months | Garden | Life & Style

Alan Titchmarsh: Look after our feathered friends during the colder months | Garden | Life & Style

But not all birds eat berries as some of them are just too small for such a fruity diet.

Yet more of them will be looking for places to sleep in the warm and dry as the weather closes in, so now is the perfect time to make sure that your garden offers them everything they could need in the way of sustenance and accommodation.

While they may not need nest boxes for egg laying until next March, smaller species such as the wren will cluster together in unbelievably large groups for warmth.

The record number found roosting in a single nest box is 63 and, while you can’t expect to equal such a tally, the thought of providing shelter for such a large number of tiny birds is irresistible. 

So put up nest boxes now, out of the reach of marauding cats (though cats seem to be able to reach anything if they put their feline minds to it) and not facing the prevailing south-westerly wind.

Start putting out food regularly each morning – small mixed grains in feeders but also sprinkled on the ground for those less adventurous species such as blackbirds and sparrows, and unsalted peanuts for the tit family, greenfinches and other nimble-footed feeders.

Squirrels can be deterred either by buying robust feeders with a larger outer mesh cylinder which allows small birds through but which excludes the rodents, or else special bird feeds laced with chilli power.

The birds have fewer taste buds than squirrels and so will feed happily while the squirrels push off (until they develop a taste for Mexican food, anyway).

Balls of fat into which seeds are bedded are a great success at attracting a variety of birds in my garden and if you want to encourage goldfinches buy a special feeder with tiny little holes into which fine black nyjer seeds can be poured.

This is their favourite diet (aside from thistle seedheads) and probably accounts for the rise in the goldfinch population in our gardens.

Don’t forget about water, which needs to be replaced and refreshed every day since the birds like to bathe in it as well as drink it.

One wood pigeon having a bath can leave the water in a filthy state – covered in a waxy film that cannot be appetising to birds with more elegant toilet habits. 

An upturned dustbin lid and large plant saucers will all be useful and three or four “filling stations” like this around the garden will all be used.

Start feeding, watering and sheltering birds now, secure in the knowledge that you’ll be helping them through what might be a long, hard winter.

Don’t miss Alan’s gardening column today and Tip Of The Day every weekday in the Daily Express.

For more information on his range of gardening products visit alantitchmarsh.com.

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