I quite enjoy winter and its cold, crisp days. I like the calmness of this season, everything seems to slow down and it’s certainly quieter everywhere I go. I’ve found that as I slow my pace in winter I actually notice more of what goes on around me. There seems to be more time just to stand still and watch nature at work which is why winter is often the best time of year to do a spot of birdwatching.
A bird’s body clock works on daylight hours, so in the winter months there are great opportunities to view the birds feeding at first light, which can become a bit of a feeding frenzy. It’s hard to believe, but during cold weather birds can lose up to 40 per cent of their weight overnight just trying to keep warm.
Food that’s high in energy is fantastic for birds during winter - peanuts, fat or suet based foods, seed mixes that contain sunflower seeds or hearts, mealworms and fruit will all go down well. You can also make your own fat balls and cake mix using lard and suet – a great rainy day activity with the kids or grandkids! However remember not to feed turkey fat to your birds as it’s too soft and can get into their feathers, which can cause problems.
Different species of birds prefer different foods, in the different seasons and different parts of the country. So I like to mix it up a bit, especially during winter when birds struggle to find natural food sources such as invertebrates and flower seeds.
It helps to have a mixture of hanging feeders and a bird table but don’t forget that some birds, such as blackbirds and robins prefer to forage on the ground. Homemade feeders work just as well as commercial ones just remember to put them out in the open and high enough so they are out of reach of ground predators like cats. But they need to be close to thick cover like bushes so that small birds can beat a hasty retreat from aerial predators.
Now that your garden is all set up to receive your feathered guests you are ready to join in with this year’s Big Garden Birdwatch. This event has become one of the most important events in the RSPB calendar and is in fact the world’s largest wildlife survey. The Big Garden Birdwatch runs from Saturday 28 January to Monday 30 January 2017 and all we ask is that you watch birds and other wildlife in your garden or green space for one hour during that time. We will even help you identify and record Britain’s key species of birds. Just visit rspb.org.uk/birdwatch or call 0800 665 498 or text BIRD to 70111 to get your free Big Garden Birdwatch pack and help count the wildlife that’s counting on you!