Well the year isn’t quite ending up the way any of us would have wanted, with the resurgence of the pandemic at a time when we might have expected it to be on the way out. And that’s not been the only challenging news we’ve had to all deal with of late, but as we don’t do politics in our blogs we won’t go there!

So as we enter the full festive period, we thought we’d focus on a few positives, including those from the previous 12 months or so, which relate to the one thing all those reading this will no doubt share: the joy of attracting wild birds to our gardens.

Yes it IS good to feed garden birds

The first subject we’ll briefly cover is the ‘should-we-shouldn’t-we be feeding garden birds’ debate, with this making the national press earlier in the year. The conclusion from the BTO (British Trust for Ornithology) is a resounding yes, and this accepting that there can be some negative impact on population levels of a very few species such as Marsh tit, and this because of an increase in numbers of the more dominant species such as Blue tit as a result of garden bird feeding. There’s also the ongoing issue of disease for some species and notably Greenfinches and Chaffinches, and this caused by poor feeder hygiene. But we’ve always been clear on how to tackle that one: keep your feeders and feeding area clean!

Watching birds feed in our gardens brought joy to many – and still does

During the periods of lockdown, many people found a new joy in watching birds in their gardens as result of putting out food. This converted many people to the practice, and hopefully most have continued. And for those of us who were already feeding the birds in our gardens before the pandemic hit, the level of joy only became greater.

A change in the type of bird food for winter?

A question we’re often asked by our customers is whether they should change the type of bird food they put out in the winter months. Of course the answer can depend on the type of food being put out before the temperatures drop, because one of the main food types we advocate is suet products. So if you don’t use suet in the summer months then now is definitely the time to get some out in your garden, though always in addition to year-round staples such as sunflower hearts.  The other main point to cover here is that it’s as much about how you feed as what you feed, and this to ensure that all species of bird get adequate food to keep their energy levels up and therefore stay warm and survive. For example, ground feeding species such as Robin, Dunnock and Blackbird can’t use most types of hanging feeder (well Robins can to some extent provided the feeder has round perches), so providing food on a ground tray or bird table is very important – and suet pellets are ideal.

Now and the New Year is a great time to put up nest boxes

Along with attracting birds to our gardens with food, it’s also good to keep a few of them there with suitable nest sites. Creating the right sort of semi-natural habitat is one way to do that, but the easiest way and also the most practical is by putting up nest boxes. Now is great time of year to do so, as a few species and notably Great tits start looking for nest sites as early as February. Plus, nest boxes can provide a safe, dry and relatively warm location for some songbirds to get through the long winter nights.