The holiday period gives many of us a chance to spend a little more time watching birds in the garden. There’s no better way to relax after the hectic days of Christmas and Boxing Day than to grab some food, wrap up warm and sit outside in the garden chair for a while with the binoculars.
There’s always lots of questions at this time of year over what you should and shouldn’t put out to feed garden birds though most regular garden bird feeders will just keep doing their thing in my experience.
If I know I’m going to have some time around the house to watch the garden or there is a particularly heavy cold spell forecast I always try and add a few things to my usual feeding routine. Top of the list is a bag of apples or pears, scattered about on the ground these are a great way of providing food to the local Blackbirds and just occasionally perhaps a Redwing or a Fieldfare or two. It almost always needs a good covering of snow on higher ground to drive the latter into my lowland garden though. Blackbirds appreciate a scattering of oats on the ground too (Ultiva Gold® is a great food for this with oatmeal and naked oats).
It’s just as important to know what not to feed and all the advice from the RSPB and other conservation organisations is not to be tempted to use left-over Turkey fat from roasting tins. There are several reasons for this ranging from it’s softness and potential to coat feathers and reduce water-proofing to the combination of meat juices that can potentially turn rancid and induce food poisoning.
Left-over cheeses are another good high-energy food to supplement your usual feeding over the Christmas period but avoid blue cheeses. Starlings in particular are very partial to cheese and can decimate a good ‘cheese board’ in no time at all. They often seem to replicate many of the Christmas family squabbles in the process which always makes for good Christmas entertainment if you’ve had enough of Die-Hard and The Snowman! They may be fractious and seem to exclude other birds from feeding but bear in mind that Starlings have declined by 87% since 1967, so a little extra help during winter is not a bad thing if we don’t want to lose this brilliant bird entirely.
Hope you all have a great Christmas and a bird-filled 2019!
Our Garden Birder’s Diary is written by Northumberland-based birder Alan Tilmouth who has been birdwatching for over 30 years and writing about birds in various guises for the last decade. A keen garden birdwatcher, he also manages to unearth the odd rare bird on his travels. You can find Alan on Twitter and his Facebook blog.