You may well have read blogs and articles extolling the virtues and benefits of feeding live food to the birds in your garden, but I recently noticed a new benefit. It may seem obvious but feeding live food to the likes of blackbirds helps a lot when you are trying to find well-hidden nests.

We've all seen blue tits dart back and forth between feeders and nest boxes, but when it comes to species that like to 'do their own thing' and build nests in trees and shrubs, it makes spotting where they are something of a challenge. That's where your trusty mealworm comes in.

At one end of my garden is a large and rather scruffy hedge which is not precisely a gardener's delight but it provides excellent nesting habitat for the birds so who cares what it looks like. For some time, I'd noticed a male and female blackbird darting to and fro into this area so guessed they were setting up home, and it seems I was right.

It was very obvious that each time I went to fill the live food feeder, I would have a black shadow flowing me up and down the garden. It got to the point when he began following me around whenever I stepped outside! As soon as the feeder was filled and hung in a small apple tree he would dive in, grab a beak full of food and flight straight to the trees.

I'd no intention of disturbing the new family by trying to look in on them, but it was handy to know where they were so we could avoid disturbing them. It wasn't long before the parents began feeding two fat fledglings not far from the nest and on the lawn close to the feeder, which undoubtedly saves mum and dad having to carry the food quite so far.

Feeding live food has many advantages. It helps with protein levels, it's excellent for assisting birds in preparing for winter or migration, and it gives young birds a good start in life, something especially important now that invertebrate numbers are falling so dramatically. And now we can add nest locating to the list of other benefits of live food.

Gaining the trust and interest of a wild animal is always special, and this breeding season has proved to be especially interesting since my new found friend has latched on to the idea that we are helping him feed the family. The food we are providing for all the birds will be being put to similar use, it's just that the others are being a tad more discreet about it! But I'm more than happy to be accompanied to the feeder every time I step outside.

As I've mentioned before, feeding live food isn't for everyone, but it's worth a try as they don't smell or bite. And if you do the rewards are significant, both to you and the birds in your garden, so if you haven't tried yet why not give it a go?

You never know, you too might gain a new garden friend?

© Phil Pickin