There's nothing more satisfying then watching birds in your garden. Of course I love all of nature's visitors but there's something special about happy, singing, pretty birds. You may be thinking that you don't have much of a space but birds need a variety of habitats and visit for many reasons. There are many ways to attract them so let's get creative.
There can be a shortage of food for birds at any time of the year so even in Spring and Summer it can be helpful to provide food for them. If the warm weather takes a sudden turn for the worse, it can make a big difference during the breeding season, so you can help contribute to the survival of chicks by putting certain foods out for them.
We have a range of ornamental bird feeders, which can be hung in the garden. The fairy umbrella's are best for providing food as they are easier for birds to access. They have holes in them to drain water and upturned edges to keep the food inside. They can be hung from trees or placed in a pot alongside a plant. I have made a beautiful display using the umbrella's and matching teacups, by hanging them from my garden tree. I've put some food in a couple of the umbrellas so I have a tree that is creatively decorated and will attract birds.
Birds require high protein foods at this time of year. There are special bird mixes you can buy which are tailored to the Spring and Summer months but failing that there are things you can find in your kitchen cupboard, such as cereals, porridge oats and dried fruits. You can also cut up soft fruits such as apples, pears and grapes. It is not recommended to leave out peanuts or fat at this time of year. Although unsalted peanuts are normally good foods for birds they can be a choking hazard for chicks. Bread is not really suitable, especially at this time of year. Although small amounts don't cause any harm to adult birds as you might have heard, bread just fills up the birds with what we call empty calories, which is especially dangerous for chicks who need vital nutrients.
Birds feed on many different types of food and gardens that are generally good for the ecosystem are also good for birds. There are certain plants such as lavender and heathers that are loved by insects and as the circle of life goes the birds feed off them. Birds also like berries and seeds, which you can grow quite easily whatever the size of you garden. Honeysuckle which is a beautifully scented climbing plant is happy in a container just plant near a wall or fence for support. A favourite of thrushes, warblers and bullfinches, it provides not only berries but also cover for birds to roost.
I've used this plant trough to make a garden especially for the birds. I've planted heather and wild berries for the birds and insects. I also dug out a hole for a pot to fill with water. Birds need fresh water to drink as well as food to eat and it's a good idea to leave out water alongside dry food. It's important to be hygienic when leaving out food and water as we don't want the birds to be ill.
An absolute favourite for many birds is sunflower seeds. This is the perfect time to start sowing your seeds to grow sunflowers that will bloom in the Summer, also a great activity for children. Ideally you should plant one seed per pot. Keep indoors on a sunny windowsill until your seedling is about 5cm tall and then transfer to the sunniest part of your garden or patio. Get the whole family involved. When each family member looks after their own flower it can get really competitive to see who can grow the tallest. To tell whose is whose, pop a different fairy in each pot, I bagsy the sunflower fairy, as she is sure to look after my plant as she loves sunflowers.
Sunflowers are known to attract finches, tits and sparrows. Towards the end of the summer when your sunflower is dying back and the seeds dry and drop off they will produce a brilliant feast for the birds, but don't forget to save some for yourself to plant again next spring.
If you don't have a very large garden you might have given up on attracting birds. Surprisingly hanging baskets can be very good for wildlife in built up areas. They can provide berries, attract insects and even provide nesting places. Good examples of plants that do well in baskets are marigolds, which produce many seeds, and ivy which provides coverage for birds to hide in. Hanging baskets also make brilliant fairy gardens for people who don't have a lawn or large garden.
I hope that these ideas inspire you to make a brilliant garden for the birds in your neighbourhood. Don't be disheartened if the birds don't arrive straight away as it can take a while for the birds to get used to new food sources and start new habits. If you do put food out, it's a good idea to stick to a regular routine so that the birds know when to come. Make sure you have somewhere to watch. A pair of binoculars might come in handy.