With Christmas now behind us we could be forgiven for thinking that Spring and warmer weather is just around the corner. Unfortunately, we still have January and February to get through before we can start to see the temperatures rise and the longer evenings come in. In fact, I think these first two months of the year are the hardest, not only on us humans but also on our wild bird population!
Have you ever noticed how when we get snow, little robins will be seen hovering around in our back gardens? It’s almost like they are trying to tell us they are hungry and begging us to take notice and perhaps put out some feed.
Once we have a heavy snowfall or a couple of days hard frost, any of the remaining berries in the hedgerows will very quickly disappear and in an effort to look after our feathered friends, I have decided to put together a little post to show a few ways in which we can feed them and see these little creatures through the bad spell!
Most hardware shops will sell purpose made bird feeders which lets face it are the easiest way to put out some food, but they can be expensive so here are a few ideas to make your own at home at a fraction of the cost (and in most cases, the only cost being the food!)
One thing you will notice when you start to leave out feed for wild birds is that they seem to know immediately that it’s there.. we only had our feeders up about ten minutes when they started to swoop in. I was amazed at the number of different species of birds there were and it can be a great game for your children to play to see who can spot the different birds!!
Little birds need fat in the winter to keep up their energy up so Homemade Fat Cakes are a great idea. Here is a simple ‘recipe’ to make your own… This is something all of the family can get involved in and as you know, children like nothing more than getting their hands dirty so you should have plenty of volunteers to help make these!!
You will need:
- 200ml Polystyrene Cup or used Yogurt Carton
- 100g Lard (any cheap Supermarket own brand)
- 100g mix of any of the following – Good Quality Bird Seed (Woodies here in Ireland sell 5kg Tubs for €14.99 but most hardware stores will stock wild bird feed especially this time of year), Mealworms (Available also from Woodies – optional and not for the squeamish!!), Peanuts, grated Cheddar cheese, bacon rind, cooked rice, sunflower seeds, Raisins, Sultanas
Place the lard in a saucepan and melt gently.
Pour in your seeds etc and give it a good stir
Cut a piece of string or ribbon approx 18 inches long and tie the two ends together to form a knot. Place the string/ribbon in the cup with the tied end sitting at the bottom. Spoon in your mixture, filling right to the top ensuring the string/ribbon remains in the centre of the pot
Place the pot in your fridge to harden. Once hard, remove the lard cake from the tub and hang out of your bird table or from a tree branch
You can be imaginative too in your feeder designs as in the images below – Use an old china teacup and saucer which can be super-glued together and suspended using a lightweight chain. Another idea is to use a plastic drinks bottle. Make a hole large enough for the little bird to get its beak into (approx ¾ inch square) on opposite sides of the bottle. Below each hole make smaller holes and pass pencils or dowels through at right angles to each other which will act as perches (you could also use small wooden spoons for the perches so that any seed which falls out through the hole will pool on the wide end of the spoon!)
DRINKS ARE IMPORTANT TOO!!
During frost and snow, it can be difficult for little birds to get access to water. It is important on these days to leave out fresh water as most puddles etc will have frozen.
Remember to position your water and feeders somewhere visible from your house so that you can sit indoors and watch the comings and goings through the window but it is vital to place them out of the way of the family cat (or the sneaky one from next door).. we don’t want a repeat of Sylvester & Tweety 🙂
Until next time,