KEEP YOUR ROBINS ROCKIN’Jessica Peace
STEP INTO THEIR CLAWS
If you’re a bird in winter these are your problems – there’s hardly any food about; your water supply becomes a block of ice; there are less places to hide as half the leaves have dropped and your predators are even hungrier; oh, and it’s minus degrees and all you’ve got to keep warm in is your own body fat – which means you’ve got to find food, expose yourself to predators, keep near to your flock, hide, find food again…
By putting out food and water for the birds in your gardens, balconies and local parks you make the winter for birds far easier but you also increase your chances of attracting new birds – as much as we like the robin, the tit, the wren and even the pigeon you could find blackcaps and bramblings and ducks (admittedly, perhaps less exciting) in your urban patch.
TWITCHING IN THE COLD
You don’t have to leave London to see some extraordinary birds, get yourself out early morning or just before dark to a big expanse like the Heath, Ally Pally, Crystal Palace or Richmond Park. If you like the atmosphere of bird hides, binoculars and steaming tea from flasks try London’s wetland centres. Over the winter months you could see Heron, Cormorant, Wigeon, Stonechat, Reed Bunting, Brambling, Redwing, Fieldfare, Hawfinch, Meadow Pipit, Sawbill, Kingfisher, Rock Pipit, Black-necked Grebe, late Swallows and passing Skylarks.
Walthamstow Wetlands is the largest urban wetland reserve in Europe, spanning over 10 reservoirs. Over winter you might glimpse birds of prey such as Sandpiper, Sparrowhawk, Kestrel and Peregrine. The Short-eared Owl has been spotted here and rarer still there have been sightings of Little Bunting.
London Wetland Centre (Barnes)
This beautiful spot in Barnes is home to vast wetlands; wildlife and sustainable gardens including a rain garden designed by Nigel Dunnet; and an otter pond where you can watch them feed. Migrating birds such as siskin, lesser redpoll and waders including lapwing and snipe are flocking to this Barnes spot and the first Bittern was seen here just a few weeks ago!
FOOL PROOF FEEDING…
‘Fat Balls’ are the bird equivalent of a Christmas dinner, but it is hard to find shop bought balls not filled with sawdust and glue. We have found ‘Chunky Dumplings’ and are hanging them from every branch and washing line we have. These fat balls are made of beef fat, sunflower seeds, cereals, peanuts, mineral-rich oyster shell grit and nothing else.
Some of us love them, some of us argue we should start cooking them and a few of us at Capital Gardens have been chasing them away from our spring bulbs. Whatever side you’re on, you can’t deny they tend to steal the good stuff from bird feeders before the birds can get their beaks in. We like the ‘Squirrel Buster’, it’s a feeder that senses the weight of squirrel and bangs shut. Simple. The ‘Buster’ also has a lifetime guarantee incase your squirrels get annoyed and cause some serious damage!
TWITCHING IN COMFORT
If the warmth of your house wins over hiding in a bush or birdhide have no fear, we have ‘Window Feeders’ here. We’ve tried a few and our favourite bird perch to stick on your window is the ‘I Love Robins Window Feeder’. It’s simple, it’s suckers don’t slip off your window and you can adjust the canopy so big birds like pigeons can’t get in (does seem cruel when you say it out loud).
Whether you’ve treated your birds to a fancy stone bath or you’re using an old margarine tub, check daily that the water you’re providing for birds is clean, unfrozen and full.