Lockdown has got a lot to answer for.
Bird watching – once the much-mocked pastime of the anorak brigade – is getting a big thumbs-up from the nation’s youth.
A recent survey by Homebase has revealed that three quarters of UK kids would like to take up twitching as a hobby after connecting with nature during the pandemic.
The news couldn’t come at a more crucial time for our feathered friends, with the British bird population in serious decline. Figures suggest that more than 40 million birds have disappeared from our skies in the last 50 years.
BBC Springwatch presenter Iolo Williams says: ‘There aren’t many pleasing things to come out of the last year, but one of them is that while taking their walks many youngsters have realised that nature is very cool. They’ve seen that there’s a wealth of beautiful birds and wildlife on their doorsteps and they want to take an active interest in helping them to thrive in their own gardens.
‘Every year we see a decline in the numbers of our birds – we’ve lost 44 million birds since the 1960s due to the way we’ve managed the land with intensive agriculture, forestry, ripped up hedgerows and cut down woodlands to build new houses and factories.
‘Yet birds not only look beautiful and grace us with whimsical songs, they also play an incredibly important role in our eco-system.
‘Whether your garden is the size of a postage stamp or the Isle of Wight, if we all do our bit then collectively we can have a huge impact.’
Here are Iolo’s tips on drawing feathered friends and other wildlife to your outdoor space…
Encourage ivy to grow
Ivy is not a pest that kills trees and other plants – it’s merely a creeper that climbs to reach sunlight. But as an evergreen that doesn’t shed its leaves, it makes fantastic nesting sites for a whole host of birds.
It doesn’t flower until November and so provides late food sources for creatures going into hibernation and pollinators. Birds such as wood pigeons, blackbirds and overwintering blackcaps love fat, ripe ivy berries.
Give the birds a watering hole
Water is as essential as food for birds, while they also need water to keep their feathers in peak condition. A small garden pond is ideal, but a bowl of water or even an upturned bin lid will suffice.
Keep it topped up, as birds need water all year round. But don’t be tempted to give them milk as it can cause them sickness and diarrhoea.
Put out the right foods
Bread can be harmful for birds. It’s like having a handful of bubblegum instead of a meal – it fills them up but doesn’t provide any nutrients at all. Instead of bread, put out a variety of high-energy foods, such as fat balls, peanuts, mixed seeds, sunflower hearts and meal worms.
The bigger the variety of food you put out, the bigger variety of birds you will attract into your garden. You can use a bird feeder, a bird table or just sprinkle seeds on the ground, as different birds prefer different feeding methods.
Switch your fence with a hedge
Grow a hedge instead of erecting a fence. Hedges are ‘motorways’ for wildlife, allowing them to get around without being seen. And birds love to nest in hedges, where they have cover.
Berries, fruit and seeds grow there and the base of a hedge makes a brilliant winter nest for a hedgehog. Bushes such as hazel, whitethorn, blackthorn and holly give nest sites for birds such as dunnocks, robins and blackbirds.
Leave pest control to nature
Nature has got everything under control – but it needs our help. Every creature has a purpose and when gardeners use chemicals to destroy so called ‘pests’ they are in fact destroying the vital food chain of many birds and wildlife creatures.
A lot of people use pellets which are toxic and won’t only kill slugs and snails, but will then kill the birds that eat them and can also kill cats and dogs. There are so many natural pest controllers into your garden – song thrushes and hedgehogs will happily get rid of slugs and snails for you.
Ladybird larvae love to feast on aphids (greenfly and blackfly), as will a whole host of birds such as the wren. Make your garden an oasis for birds and wildlife and watch Nature do its job.
Allow your lawn to grow wild
Artificial grass and decking might look tidy, but it’s a calamity for wildlife. Tidiness and wildlife do not go together. With a weekly mowed lawn there’s a lot less food for the bees.
Why not allow a small section to grow native flowers such as dandelions which are packed full of pollen and nectar. Later in the year there will be cuckoo flower, primroses, buttercups and birdsfoot.
You can even sow a variety of wildflower seeds to add colour to your lawn – perfect for bees and butterflies and the seeds will attract birds such as goldfinch, siskin and bullfinch. A wild lawn can bring as much pleasure as your bird table.
Plant some fruit trees
When in full blossom in spring they are alive with bees. In the winter the fruit can be left out so it can be feasted upon by blackbirds and winter thrushes.
If you don’t have much space you can grow dwarf apple trees in pots which will also be very much appreciated by the bees.
Put up a bird box
No trees or hedges? Birds will gravitate towards bird boxes which imitate small holes in trees where they feel safe. Bird boxes make fine nesting sites for blue tits, great tits and maybe nuthatches.
If there are small holes in your garden walls or under your roof, leave them open (if they are not causing you problems) as it might be the only nest site around. Winter is the best time to put up a box, so the birds can settle in before breeding season. Place the box out of reach of people and cats, and avoid hot, south-facing walls.
Even little gardens make a difference
If you have a small garden or even just a balcony, you can still make a difference. Try a climbing plant, such as honeysuckle.
Grown against railings and over a balcony, it will provide beautiful, fragrant flowers which are great for moths and pollinating bees and will produce berries for the birds later in the year.
Top 10 British Garden Birds
The UK’s most common garden bird, the average UK garden has four house sparrows.
More than three quarters of UK gardens are home to a blue tit, says the RSPB.
The number found in UK gardens has declined by 82% in 40 years.
The vast majority of UK gardens (85%) are home to a blackbird.
There are almost a third more wood pigeons in UK gardens than a decade ago.
Numbers in gardens down almost a quarter in 42 years.
Long tailed tit
These tiny birds weigh less than a £1 coin.
Great tit numbers are on the rise in the UK.
Goldfinch numbers have gone up thanks to the popularity of bird feeders.
Once culled by gamekeepers, magpie numbers have been rising since the 1970s.
Iolo Williams has partnered with Homebase’s A Home For All campaign to raise awareness and help the declining bird population
Do you have a story to share?
Get in touch by emailing MetroLifestyleTeam@Metro.co.uk.
How to get your Metro newspaper fix
The lifestyle email from Metro.co.uk
Get your need-to-know lifestyle news and features straight to your inbox.
READ NEWS SOURCE