In addition to a wide range of plants and grasses which provide a good source of seeds, we leave a lot of fruit to the birds after we have taken what we need. Our enormous mulberry tree is particularly prolific and loved.
We have lots of crabapples (hence the historical name!). Our viburnum are loved by robins, bluebirds, finches, and many others.
By September, the garden and the hedgerows surrounding us are laden with berries, providing important food source for many birds during the winter, especially when the ground is too frozen to hunt worms or snails, and there are few insects about. Leave your sunflower heads out for the birds. We had loads of enormous ones last year.
Berry and fruit bearing trees provide food for a range of insects and animals, too: hedgehogs, badgers, mice, squirrels and even foxes will all happily feed on them.
Fallen fruit can also provide birds with a cold-weather treat – pop some in the freezer, and save it for the winter bird table.
Although winter feeding benefits birds most, food shortages can occur at any time of the year. By feeding all year round, you’ll give them a better chance to survive food shortages whenever they may occur. During the summer months, birds require high protein foods, especially while they are moulting and feeding their young, extra food on your bird table can make a big difference to the survival of young.
Avoid using peanuts, fat and bread at this time, since these can be harmful if adult birds feed them to their nestlings.
Birds time their breeding period to exploit the availability of natural foods: earthworms in the case of blackbirds and song thrushes, and caterpillars in the case of tits and chaffinches. It is now known that if the weather turns cold or wet during spring or summer, severe shortage of insect food can occur, and if the weather is exceptionally dry, earthworms will be unavailable to ground feeding birds because of the hard soil. In order to help with this, buggy nibbles and mealworms can be provided during these times to prevent starvation
We have three feeding sites to attract the birds – one in the middle of the garden, next to a bench so that people can sit and watch them. There are more feeders hanging from the mulberry tree in the house garden so that holiday let visitors can enjoy them from the kitchen and dining room windows. The third site is opposite the little potting shed which serves as the entrance to the garden and where people pay to come in. We can watch the birds from inside the shed without disturbing them at all.
Squirrel proof feeders are a must and, one strategy is to leave one feeder for the squirrels, as they need to eat too, squirrel proof feeders are a must and these are our top 3:
Suet blocks work out more expensive than seeds and if you have starlings in your garden then I would avoid them, purely because they break off large chunks of the stuff, dropping it on the ground and attracting rats. That said, the little blue tits love suet blocks and they are a great high energy source, particularly in the winter. We use these
Avoid seed mixtures that have split peas, beans, dried rice or lentils as again only the large species can eat them dry. These are added to some cheaper seed mixes to bulk them up.