Eating for one, two three...?

This time of year sees many of our native bird species in the process of laying and incubating eggs. Indeed, many of the birds here at S.O.S. are sitting on the next generation as we speak!

Paradoxically, as the weather begins to improve this is also the time of year we tend to stop putting the scraps on the lawn or refrain from replenishing the peanut bags hanging from the apple tree for our garden birds. But research has shown that the birds actually need just as much, if not more, help with food at this time of year , due to their increased levels of activity finding food, or keeping themselves warm while sitting incubating the eggs.

So as most of the birds visiting our gardens right now will be on the look-out for food, if we as humans want to lend a helping hand, providing the right kind of food for the different species is very important.

Equally appreciated by our feathered friends is the provision of a good source of clean water, not so much for drinking as for bathing. This should be changed daily and positioned in a place safe from ambush by cats: a tray lined with silver foil and suspended safely from a tree or fence by string attached to each corner, makes a suitable bath of enough depth to allow immersion but shallow enough to prevent a fledgling from drowning should it chance to drop in.

(It is worth mentioning that any uncovered water butts should now have secure lids on them, as young and inexperienced birds can easily fall in while attempting to use them as a source of water. A young Kestrel was brought into us last year having suffered such ignominy and the poor chap got more than he bargained for but after a night in our raptor hospital in a warm recovery box, he was fit enough to be released the next morning.)

If you decide to help out with feeding the birds, the best start on deciding what birds you have in your garden is to do an "Hours Watch" by just sitting quietly in the garden or by a window, noting down the species which visit within a sixty-minute time slot.

Depending on your findings, here are some food suggestions that might help. Blackbirds, Sparrows, Robins and Wrens are all rather partial to ‘live foods’ such as mealworms and wax worms. On the other hand, Blue Tits and Great Tits prefer to perch on the side of peanut feeders and also enjoy sunflower seeds. The Finch family such as Green and Bull Finches will eat seed mixes and most birds which come to visit all enjoy a good feast of home made peanut and seed cake. However, salty food - such as crisps, salted peanuts, salted bacon, desiccated coconut and last night's chips - should be avoided at all costs.


Children love making things and here is a good opportunity to get them interested in wildlife in the garden - why not make help them make some Bird Cakes, which are quick, easy and most of all fun!
Ingredients (not for human consumption): Lard, peanuts or seed an old yoghurt pot with hole in bottom (or a flowerpot), and some string.
Method: Tie the string through the hole in the base of the pot to hang the cake - ensure you do this first! Then, melt the lard in a saucepan until runny (adult supervision required here), add the peanuts or seed and mix well. Pour the mixture into the pot/s and allow it to cool and harden. Finally hang them from tables or trees or tip out the contents onto your bird table (remembering to regularly tidy up any loose seed or food which attracts rats and other rodents, which can spread disease) and then watch and enjoy as your treat is eagerly gobbled up.

As a result, it shouldn't be long before you see the new baby birds like this little chap in your garden, and you can be happy in the knowledge that you helped them get there!