Monthly Archives: December 2012

The Rain Never Stops

It’s so difficult feeding birds when the weather is so wet.

The bird food is wasted by the never ending rain – a waste of my money and bad for birds

The ground feeder needs cleaning more and with the rain lashing down on me, it wasn’t a job I wanted to do

Even my hanging coconut feeder is full of water

Something needed to be done  as I want to make sure there’s a dry supply of birdfood

I’ve started putting some bird food under a hedge and it is keeping dryer there

A reader told me she puts bird food in feeders under her garden table – which is a brilliant idea

I have covered the roof of my meshed ground feeder  with old bits of wood – and that keeps a lot of the rain off

Any other ideas?


Of course they don’t.  Do they?

I suppose it’s just another day for our feathered friends

Christmas Day!  ‘Oh Little Town of Bethleham’  ‘Oh Come All Ye Faithful’.  Just two lovely Christmas Carols that, in a lot of ways, sum up Christmas.

We have thrushes in a corner of the garden now.  I’ve been putting some sliced apple out and they ‘run about’ on the grass with the blackbirds getting as much bird food and apple as they can.  I’m lucky I can see so much from my kitchen window – I can see their antics and watch them unobserved

I’ll pop outside and give these garden birds a Christmas Feast



I have had two comments yesterday,which were similar, because they are about birds being preyed on.

John says –

It’s a load of rubbish “sparrowhawks go for the weaklings  They attack so silently and swiftl.  They will kill and eat any bird up to the size of a pigeo.  In fact one of their favourite  meals of recent years is the very fit, well muscled racing pigeon, and is well hated for its constant attacks on them.


Stan says –

I was raised in a rural NZ region and  have always lived with animals- cats especially.   The little darlings certainly may catch birds, but most times they’ll bring prey back home to exchange for praise & tastier nibbles !

The poor bird will usually be shocked (and often needs a dark warm place to recover), but  perhaps half of the birds we’ve had delivered survive to fly off.    But in my experiences cats far prefer mice (which they play with and eventually  EAT), and they do mankind an immense favour by keeping rodents at bay.




When  you sit down to your meal, plate piled high with Christmas-time goodies, have a thought for the wild birds around you. What will they be eating for their Christmas dinner?

Winter is a difficult time of year for birds, the days are short and the nights are cold, so they must eat a lot of food in a short amount of ‘daylight time’  to have the energy to survive until the morning. 

Sharing your dinner with the birds 

Many of your kitchen scraps and Christmas leftovers make ideal snacks for birds visiting your garden and can help them get the food they need to survive. Here’s a quick guide to what you can put out: 

  • Fat – fat from cuts of meat (as long as it comes from only unsalted varieties) can be put out in large pieces, from which birds such as tits can remove morsels. Make sure that these are well anchored to prevent large birds flying away with the whole piece.
  • Roast potatoes  – cold and opened up, these will be eaten by most garden birds.
  • Vegetables – cold Brussels, parsnips or carrots will be eaten by starlings and other birds, but remember not to put out more than will be eaten in one day, otherwise you run the risk of attracting rats.
  • Fruit – excess or bruised apples, pears and other fruit are very popular with all thrushes, tits and starlings. Cut them up and leave them on the bird table or on the ground.   I cut the apples up – so they can get at the apple easily
  • Pastry – cooked or uncooked is excellent, especially if it has been made with real fats. 
  • Cheese – Hard bits of cheese are a favourite with robins, dunnocks, blackbirds and song thrushes. It will also help wrens if placed under hedgerows and other areas in your garden where you have noticed them feeding. Avoid feeding them very strong or blue cheeses. I often grate the cheese.
  • Dried fruits – raisins, sultanas and currants are particularly enjoyed by blackbirds, song thrushes and robins.
  • Biscuits and cake – Stale cake and broken pieces of biscuits from the bottom of the tin are high in fat and ideal for birds in the winter.

Golden rules for feeding birds

  • Don’t put out salty foods. Birds can’t digest salt and it will damage their nervous systems.
  • Only leave enough that can be eaten in one day – otherwise you may attract unwanted visitors, such as mice and rats.
  • Always follow sensible hygiene measures, including washing hands thoroughly after filling and washing feeders.



The master of restraint and forward planning when it comes to finding food is the mistle thrush.

This is the UK’s largest thrush and in early autumn birds gather in large flocks to feed together. 

But as soon as holly berries appear, they will split off on their own or into pairs and get defensive. Each bird or pair will find itself a holly tree or bush teeming with berries and will set up a territory. 

The berries on that tree won’t be eaten, but will be guarded with such care that no other birds can take them either. Mistle thrushes are so good at protecting their trees, just in case, that by spring many will still have their full crop of berries untouched, long after any unprotected holly has had its fruit stripped.

So, if you see a holly tree that’s still full of berries at Christmas, you’ll probably find there’s a mistle thrush nearby keeping out a watchful eye for thieves.


It’s not a case of sharing the berries is it?  It’s ‘what’s mine is mine.  Keep away’



Dawn was breaking when I heard the first blackbird of the day. 

I could follow his call as he flew from one corner of the bird feeding area to the other,  so  I went outside in the morning gloom and  scattered wild bird seed and  and an apple that was going soft.  Blackbirds, especially, love apple and will peck it to nothing in a short time.

There was also some mild cheese in the fridge so I used a bit of that as well.

The other usual suspects arrived singing / chirping happily, so I put the rest of the bird food out in my makeshift bird feeders.  I counted that I put birdfood in 7 different places in the garden.

When daylight arrived I could see from the kitchen window so many brightly coloured birds at the feeders.

Here’s one of them

They are such small birds in such a big world!


This was sent in 2010.  Garth was watching wrens go into a normal sized bird box!  It shows how important normal nest boxes can be!

The figure of 20 (wrens) was soon passed and then 30, which we thought quite unbelievable in one normal sized bird box.

A figure of 40 was then reached, with more wrens still arriving by the minute and queuing up around the site, so it was speculated we might even reach 50! At 4 30 things went very quiet so the observation was terminated.

It is true to say that 50 wrens were seen to go in but two came out at the end and went elsewhere, leaving still an incredible figure of 48 all tucked up warmly inside.



I’m showing it again because I think we may forget that birds use nest boxes as roosts in winter.  These nest boxes must have saved the lives of many birds




Read the full article below

Harsh Winter for Wrens by Garth

The winter at the end of 2010 was a  particularly harsh one, starting very early with the first snow on the 26th Nov and the cold spell continuing through most of Dec. On nine days in this period the max at Old Storridge never got above 0C with some night temperatures dropping to -10C.

These conditions put a great strain on the resident birds especially those with the least body mass such as the wren. 

A timely reminder from a resident of Birchwood Lane, just a ten minute walk through the woods, encouraged us to see a phenomena not observed very often. During the last winter he had observed a number of wrens going to roost in a bird box attached to one corner upright of an open barn used as a workshop, and claimed there were at least twenty entering the box. On the evening of the 19th Dec with the daily maximum having only reached -3C that day, I met my sister Cherry  and her husband to see how this activity actually works.

In snowy conditions I arrived at the box at around 3 40pm with no birds to be seen and thought it was too late and they all must be in as it was so cold.

By 3 55 three pairs of eyes were studying the box, when the first wren arrived, hung about for a bit and then went in only to reappear again as if to say I am not going to be the first! This was repeated a few times by more wrens, which had started to arrive. By 4 10 just a few had stayed inside, but others kept on arriving and continuing with this in and out action.

By nature this bird cannot be called a social bird, setting up territories in the spring and defending them against other male wrens, so this winter gathering has to overcome this part of their make up. It is an ingenious scheme all huddling together in a sheltered area, through long cold nights, saving on the loss of body heat. The speculation is how did this evolve?

The numbers going into the box continued to be monitored with the figure rising steadily, but dropping back still as a few birds kept coming out.

The figure of 20 was soon passed and then 30, which we thought quite unbelievable in one normal sized bird box. A figure of 40 was then reached, with more wrens still arriving by the minute and queuing up around the site, so it was speculated we might even reach 50! At 4 30 things went very quiet so the observation was terminated. It is true to say that 50 wrens were seen to go in but two came out at the end and went elsewhere, leaving still an incredible figure of 48 all tucked up warmly inside.

It is also a remarkable fact that there were still so many wrens still alive in the surrounding district with the inclement conditions.

Since this number could not all be living closely around the site, some birds must have flown in quite a distance from their territory. The last question of course is just how all these birds get to know that there is a wren Hilton, where they all gather for the night? Memory must work quite well as it was used last year, but how did all those youngsters from this year cotton on to this fact?

It was a magical 45 minutes watching the wrens performing their going to bed actions, which must be taking place night after night in this long period of intense cold.

Garth   Dec 2010


You may not get as many as 40 birds in your bird box, but you will find that it is being used in the winter as a roost.

Allan has just let me know that  –

“The time is 4 50 pm.  We have a camera in a bird box and we have just been watching 4 wrens bed down for the night.

 Last night there were 5  –  one has  not turned up tonight”

Isn’t that great!  Being able to watch wrens bed down the the night.  Better than TV