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The Chaffinches are back by Phil Pickin

As many people know the Chaffinch is one of the most widespread and abundant birds in the UK. So you can imagine how frustrating it was, when we moved to our current property, to find that none of these vocal and attractive garden birds visited our new garden. Quite why was something of a mystery, that was until we found out that the previous owners fed a semi-feral cat on a regular basis and that the bird feeders they used were rusty and empty. So with the cat now long gone (quite where I've no idea) and the installation of a new feeding station we set too building the numbers and variety of birds paying us a visit.

The aim was to not only attract more birds (and a wider variety of species) but for these new visitors to become regulars too. What we did certainly wasn't rocket science, but by setting up a number of feeders offering a variety of food, and by ensuring the feeders were kept topped up, we quickly started to see results.

The cottage and the main part of the garden is over 100 years old giving us the advantage of being surrounded by well established and very mixed hedges. Something sadly lacking with new builds. These hedgerows provide excellent cover for the birds and may have helped some of them regain the confidence probably lost while the cat was in residency. We soon began to see the birds dart back and forth from the hedges to the feeders and it seemed that word soon got round!

Having offered a range of food, both in feeders and on a new bird table, it became apparent that sunflower hearts was the food of choice, although scraps also seem popular, but the as ready supply of clean water in a number of bird baths hasn't gone unnoticed. Never has it been more graphically demonstrated that regular feeding pays dividends than in the results that we achieved, and in particular with our barometer species, the Chaffinch.

Since we began regular feeding we have continued to see good numbers of Chaffinch plus Siskins, the occasional Bullfinch, Greenfinches, as well as the almost full range of the tit family including a Willow tit. Linnets and Redpoll too have recently begun to visit, undoubtedly due to the scarcity of food over the winter months. And although they don't visit the feeders, redwings have been feeding on the berries in the garden.

The question is, where do we go from here? Easy really, more of the same and, we hope, more use being made of the nest boxes we've been putting up too. Some may look at what we've achieved as rather modest, to say the least, but we derive considerable enjoyment from feeding the birds, and it's good to know you are having a positive impact on the wildlife in your own back yard. If we all looked out for the wildlife in our own area, the natural world would be a far better place, and there's no better place to start than on your own doorstep.

© Phil Pickin Guest Blogger

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