When I asked my girlfriend Tracey, how many types of British birds she could identify, she quickly replied “About ten”. And if I were to ask you as a reader what would your reply be?
I suspect it may be around the same but just take a while to stop and think. I suggest you may be able to identify at least fifty. Just to give you a quick example, take the time to read the names of but a few. Blackbird, Crow, Wood Pigeon, Mallard, Thrush, Sparrow, Starling, Kingfisher, Magpie and Puffin but you certainly know many more and this brings me to the question, how many different types of bird could you attract to your garden in Preston?
I live on the canal with its rich variety of wildlife. I get hedgehogs, brown rats, squirrels, kingfishers, cormorants, several small birds, ducks and swans plus many more but Tracey; who lives in Blackpool, gets more. It’s hard to believe but with the correct attractions, she has managed to get over twenty different types of birds visiting her garden as well as five mammals. She doesn’t have a large garden, in fact it’s quite small and with very little cover but by using the one tree there, she has a wealth of wildlife to watch and photograph.
It’s really simple and largely inexpensive. Firstly a bird feeder that hangs from a tree or other ‘sticky out thing’ can cost as little as one pound and the food that goes inside it will cost on average 10p per day. But what foods are the best? Peanuts are fine but limited in the species they will attract. Mixed seeds are by far the best because sparrows, finches of differing types, starlings and tits will feast on them. However, thistle seeds and white sunflower seeds attract probably the most attractive of all British birds, the goldfinch, so it’s certainly a good idea to have a second or even a third feeder.
Now, where to put them? If any feeder is placed fully exposed to easy attack from predators such as cats and sparrow hawks then your small visitors won’t last very long. Equally, if the feeders are completely surrounded by hiding places the same effect will happen because neighbourhood cats use the cover to ambush the diners. So find a happy medium, a little bit of cover but not enough to obscure any oncoming attacker and find a sheltered spot if you can because a feeder blowing wildly in a howling gale will not be very inviting, if not to say quite dangerous for our little feathered friends.
Hygiene and simple maintenance is essential in so much as fungus can be fatal to birds. I have often seen persons feeding old stale bread to birds on the basis they can survive the worst of foods and this is simply not true. Most British birds feed on nothing but fresh plant and animal material although they do have a better resistance to bacteria that we urbanised humans.
The last thing to remember is water because without this they will not only dehydrate but will also suffer from hyperthermia. Even in the middle of winter birds have to be provided with clean bathing water in order to keep their feathers in tip top condition, so a safe bathing area is essential.
Safe sides, safe perches and water free from soap and oil pollution.
This should just about do it for the beginning, give it a couple of months and your garden will start to transform from a barren concrete jungle into a wildlife oasis and the attached pictures are just some of the many bird species Tracey has managed to observe through her kitchen window. So good luck and happy birding.
If you have a wildlife question for John get in contact at [email protected] and he will do his best to answer it in future articles.
Please note: John cannot answer queries regarding sick or injured animals.