Caring for your garden and the extraordinary wildlife that lives there can be a great way to pass some time and connect with nature.
However, with a cold start to 2021, you may find that some unusual visitors will begin to appear and call your backyard home.
Wild birds such as robins, blackbirds, gold crests and blue tits will all struggle to find a sustainable food source in these wintery months, so it is down to us to ensure that our feathered friends are well fed and watered.
The Ranger team at National Trust’s Springhill, County Londonderry, are busy preparing nesting sites as birds are already starting to pair up and scout out suitable homes for the new season.
Just like the rangers, there are lots of simple things you can be doing at home to make your garden attractive to wild birds.
With expert advice from Sophie Graham, Ranger at Springhill, Discover Northern Ireland has put together some useful bird feeding and nesting tips for your garden:
Birds are often hungry during the lean winter months. An easy way to attract them into your garden is by making sure there is plenty for them to eat.
n Hanging feeders filled with peanuts, bird seed and fat balls offer a tasty meal or snack, often providing an important source of energy during cold weather.
n Did you know each bird has their favourite treat? The robin loves a meal worm whereas the blackbird will prefer a slice of apple.
n Planting trees and shrubs that provide a natural source of food is important. Fruit trees or native trees such as hawthorn or elder are a good choice for a small garden.
n Cotoneaster and holly also provide a glut of bright red berries for blackbirds and thrushes, even redwing and waxwings have been seen dining on them.
Provide nest sites
It is important to provide a sheltered spot for birds to nest.
n Tree creepers nest behind the bark of gnarly tree trunks and jackdaws make use of holes in ancient branches. While the tall scots pines are home to a number of loud rooks. Large messy twig nests make this rookery easy to spot.
n Little holes in the garden walls make cosy homes for blue tits and great tits, while robins, wrens, and blackbirds find hidden spots amongst the climbing roses, creeping hydrangeas and ivy that provide shelter and cover from predators.
n You can put up a nest box to help the birds in your own garden. Make sure it is high enough to be out of reach of predators and facing away from prevailing winds. Most birds prefer a bit of cover to help them feel secure and provide shade.
n Water is also very important and can mean the difference between life and death for some birds when the weather is at its harshest.
They also need a bath to keep their feathers in good condition. Springhill has a pond which is great for birds and other wildlife such as frogs and newts.
However, a bird bath kept thawed during frosty weather in your garden is quite adequate.
For more information about Springhill and other great places to visit when government guidance permits travel again, visit www.discovernorthernireland.com
Northern Ireland’s giant welcome will be here for you when the time is right.
n For the latest government guidelines on Covid restrictions, visit www.nidirect.gov.uk/campaigns/coronavirus-covid-19
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