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Turn your winter garden into a bird haven

As UK temperatures plunge, make sure birds don’t get a frosty reception in your garden this winter
Turn your winter garden into a bird haven

We’ve been hit by a cold Arctic airflow and the Met Office has forecast a band of rain and snow across the UK today, with ‘some significant accumulations’.

As we prepare for plunging temperatures, the RSPB is challenging us to turn our gardens into a haven for birds by topping up feeders, filling up bird baths and providing shelter during the frosty weather.

After benefiting from a mild autumn, birds will begin to struggle as the cold snap kicks in and natural food sources start to dwindle. The Nature charity says there are three key things that birds will need this winter: food, water and shelter.

Feed the birds…

To keep their energy up during the colder months, the best way to help your garden birds is by providing them with a variety of food, but fatty food will be particularly helpful.

Fat balls or homemade bird cakes, which only take a few minutes to make and can be a great children’s activity, are perfect and cheap to make from kitchen scraps and lard. If you prefer, seeds, fruits or dried mealworms are also some of birds’ favourite snacks.

Ice-free water

Another vital support for vulnerable birds is fresh water for drinking and bathing. Finding sources of water can be hard for birds when there’s been a frost, but with a simple trick you can help to keep a patch of water ice-free.

The RSPB recommends floating a small ball, such as a ping-pong ball, on the surface of the water as a light breeze will stop an area of water from freezing.

Create shelter

Finally, providing shelter from the harsh weather is extremely important. By carefully planting dense hedges such as privet or hawthorn, or allowing ivy or holly to grow, you’ll be giving birds a great place to roost in and shelter from the elements. Nestboxes can also make good roosting sites.

‘Throughout the colder months some of our favourite birds, such as blackbirds, robins and blue tits, will be busy desperately searching for food, water and shelter to survive. You can make a real difference to birds in your garden and improve their chances of surviving the winter. Birds don’t need much but by providing a supply of food, a patch of unfrozen water and somewhere to shelter from the elements, you will be rewarded with great views of wildlife in your back garden.’

CLAIRE THOMAS
RSPB wildlife adviser

Big Garden Birdwatch

Ensuring your garden is filled with food now will improve your chances of having a successful Big Garden Birdwatch. The RSPB’s annual event is on Saturday 27, Sunday 28 and Monday 29 January 2018.

To take part, all you need to do is dedicate one hour at any time over the Big Garden Birdwatch weekend to note the number of avian visitors to your garden or nearby park. You can sign up for this year’s Big Garden Bird Watch from December 13.

Click here for more ways you can give Nature a home in your garden.

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