As winter approaches, and temperatures begin to drop, food becomes scarcer, and more difficult to find for many of our wild birds. As a result, we begin to see an increase in garden bird visitors as they come in from the fields and hedgerows in search of extra food.
The numbers and variety of garden birds visiting the feeders in our back garden has increased hugely in the last few weeks. As well as the usual blackbirds, sparrows, robins, blue tits, great tits, and wrens, who we have become used to seeing all year round – there are now goldfinches, a pair of bullfinches, a female blackcap, a song thrush, and at least two families of long-tailed tits.
I adore long-tailed tits. It’s not only their impossibly cute looks that melt my heart, but the way they flock together in extended families – always looking out for one another – and the delightful chattering sounds they make as they land on the feeders. I love some of the old English names that long-tailed tits have been known by over the centuries too, such as mumruffin, long-tail titmouse, poke pudding, and (my favourite) bum-barrel – which stems from the domed oval shape of their nests.
To cater for long-tailed tits and other winter visitors of the avian kind, we try to keep our bird feeders well stocked throughout the winter. We fill them with the best quality bird food we can afford, including sunflower hearts, peanuts, and fat balls… as well as soaked sultanas and windfall apples, which we leave on the ground for blackbirds, thrushes, redwings and fieldfares. It is important, once you have an established feeding routine, not to change it, as the birds will come to rely upon you, and include your garden on their daily foraging circuits. Equally important, is that you regularly clean your feeders, bird tables, dishes, and bird baths. Mouldy food, and droppings, encourage bacterial growth and transmit disease – so hygiene is paramount. Maybe, this Christmas, you could help birds AND bring joy to family members and loved ones, by gifting bird feeders, together with a few months’ supply of bird food? It’s certainly a thought…
Further advice on bird hygiene, here: https://www.bto.org/how-you-can-help/providing-birds/feeding-garden-birds/hygiene