It’s been relatively quiet in my garden in recent days; a Song Thrush seeking out snails under the trampoline and an early morning visit by a female Pheasant being the highlights. But these first days of warm Spring sunshine always encourage me to head out into the garden and start planning for the year ahead. For me this almost inevitably means thinking about what I should be doing for the birds that visit and entertain. I admit I almost think of it as a ‘co-owned’ space these days, it’s as much theirs as it is mine.
One of the best things I did a few years back was ensure that I had a source of water they could use, linking up one of the conservatory drainpipes to a small water feature has enabled me to provide natural water year-round and the local birds take full advantage now. Garden birds take on a different character around water, Blackbird lean forward in repeated yoga-like movements to drink. Fluffed up feathers and the splashing water created by bathing birds make great subjects for photographs too if as many do now you like to try and capture pictures of some of your garden visitors. If you don’t already have a bird bath or fountain it’s well worth thinking about adding one this Spring, in the Summer months finding a regular source of water is as important as finding food especially if our summers keep getting warmer.
Cleaning the bird feeders is another job that I invariably think about at this time of year. I confess like over half the people in a recent survey I only occasionally clean my feeders and need to get into the habit of doing it more often. It’s a really sensible precaution to help protect the birds that visit from a range of diseases including Trichomonosis and Salmonellosis, particularly for those garden birdwatchers that get large numbers of birds at their feeding stations.
It’s always best to use a cleaning agent designed for feeders like Ark-Klens or CitroSan Sanitiser and a specially designed bird-feeder cleaning brush also helps with plastic tube feeders. Make sure they are rinsed and dry before adding food again and move hanging feeders about if you can to avoid droppings building up in one area.
It’s not too late to add a nest box either, while many of our resident species are quite advanced in terms of breeding there will be some pairs that haven’t quite round to finding the right home yet and many species will look for an alternative nest site later in the year for a second brood. Some of my Tree Sparrows attempted a third brood last year in late August. There are also pairs that will fail at the first attempt, perhaps due to mixed weather or predation of eggs and so options to nest elsewhere more safely can provide them a welcome opportunity to try again.
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.