Birdwatching Secrets and Tips


It is relatively easy to encourage birds to any garden as long as it provides the three essentials of food, shelter and water. The most important rule is to make sure food is available throughout the year and not just in the winter. Nuts, seed mixtures and fat balls are all welcome but do make sure any feeders and bird tables are cleaned regularly to prevent the spread of viral diseases. Avoid chemical cleaners and instead use using boiling water. Equally important is to provide the right ecologically friendly environment to encourage insect food. Cutting back or eliminating chemicals and pesticides used in the garden will help and birds and other predators will make sure there will be very few problems with pests.
Although an open, well-maintained lawn will give a clear view and offer a perfect hunting area for birds but flower beds, neat borders and an over tidy garden do not offer much of interest. A bird friendly garden should ideally include plants that offer a good source of food and if you allow the seed heads to stay on plants, it offers an alternative source of food for birds in winter. Cut back these seed heads in early March as new shoots are emerging. Most trees and shrubs attract and support insects and shrubs that produce berries will give food in the colder months, although it is worth noting that many yellow berries remain uneaten and it is probably best to concentrate on plants producing red or black berries.
The best bird garden boundary is a hedge left untrimmed in the summer. An untrimmed hedgerow offers a variety of benefits. Hawthorn or hazel are ideal but almost all hedges will offer a good habitat for birds to shelter, nest and feed. Aside from any berries the hedge produces, dead leaves and debris shelter spiders, woodlice and centipedes and in the hedge itself, leaves stay attached to offer warmth and cover in the colder months. A word of warning. It is best to avoid thick leaved evergreens such as laurels and rhododendrons because they take too much light from the ground and there are too few insects underneath.
Finally, a few notes on providing water. All birds need water and get some through the food they eat. They don't sweat but lose water mainly through excretion and they need to replace this. Many garden birds also need water to take care of their plumage which, apart from its obvious use in flight, provides insulation and regulates body temperature. The battle to maintain plumage is a constant one and bathing is an important element in their attempt to keep their feathers fully efficient. Most birds prefer shallow water for bathing, placed in the shade with a reasonable amount of cover.

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