Encouraging wildlife

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Colin Miles
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Encouraging wildlife

Postby Colin Miles » Sat Apr 22, 2006 11:35 am

On Tuesday (18th) saw the first swallow at Woburn. Yesterday the first house martins appeared here in Llannon.

Into my second year in a new garden and keen to encourage as much wildlife as possible. over the winter we fed the birds very well with high-energy bird seed until we went away a fortnight ago. Hopefully with the better weather they will now forage for themselves and won't have started to breed too early.

But artificial feeding like this always worries me slightly. There is an article in the New Scientist about the urbanisation of birds and animals - squirrels relying on waste and no longer squirreling - great tits singing higher to make themselves heard.

Certainly with so many more people providing bird seed this is bound to have some effect on the relative populations of different species. Tits in particular seem to be very well provided for, especially as popular nest boxes seem to be aimed at them - when I was in Sweden there were many tit nest boxes in gardens there so we are not alone in this.

But what about other birds? Which ones should we be encouraging? How do I get House Martins and Swallows to nest under my eaves? I have NO house sparrows so would putting up communal nest boxes be a waste of time or would they find them? They don't seem to find the bird-seed.
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oldherbaceous
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Postby oldherbaceous » Sat Apr 22, 2006 11:53 am

Hello Colin was it Woburn in Bedfordshire that you saw the swallow.

Kind regards Old Herbaceous.

Theres no fool like an old fool.
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Postby Johnboy » Sat Apr 22, 2006 12:05 pm

Hi Colin,
Only in the heart of a really cold period do I feed the birds. For the tits I keep excess roasting fat stored in the freezer for when needed and I make a nutritious feed of breadcrumbs and chopped dried fruit and Hazel Nuts (own not bought) mixed in a bowl and then melt the fat and use that to bind it all up. I then have a gadget made of two of the old Squeezy Washing Up Liquid to facilitate me putting the whole thing into a net to hang-up in the Hazel hedge without gettig plasterefd myself. I also hang pure fat in others. Apart from that I do not feed the birds at all as they always seem to find enough natural food.
To feed Nuts to Tits during the breeding season is both dangerous and very unnecessary. Dangerous because it is possible for a Tit to feed a whole nut to a chick and choke it to death it and also means the growing chicks do not get the all important varied diet which is important for later life.
The survival rate of Blue Tits is that one pair producing eight chicks only one parent and one chick survive to breed the following year. Suprising figures but I am lead to believe that they are authentic.
First Swallow here 29/3/06. We get Sand Martins but not House Martins and suprisingly two pairs of House Sparrows after an abscense of 15 years. No Starlings.
Have A pair of Ravens nesting in my largest Apple Tree in the orchard (very very large for an Apple) which to my disgrace is covered with Ivy.
All Ivy leading to the ground is severed but the tree is a little hollow and the Ivy must be being fed down the hollow bit to the ground. Well that's my story and I'm sticking to it!!
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Colin Miles
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Postby Colin Miles » Sat Apr 22, 2006 1:48 pm

Yes - Woburn Safari park. A lone swallow just arrived winging its away across the ponds there.

We stop feeding the birds during the nesting season, which is a great shame in a way as we now have no goldfinches, chaffinches, greenfinches, siskins, bluetits, nuthatch, woodpecker, etc., to gaze at from our kitchen window! I do also wonder whether increasing the survival rates of bluetits, chaffinches and the like during the winter helps the Sparrowhawks and other predators, which is probably a good thing anyway.
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oldherbaceous
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Postby oldherbaceous » Sat Apr 22, 2006 2:48 pm

Colin i thought it was you i saw in Woburn,HA. HA.
I hope you had a good day at Woburn abbey.
Thats wear i get my dawn chorus from, if the wind is in the north.
On the subject of birds, when i was working at the big house yesterday the local peacock was in the garden, and all of a sudden started displaying to the compost bin. I have to say it really was a magnificent sight with the sun shimmering of his tail feathers. Nature can be most awesome in the funniest of ways.

Kind regards Old Herbaceous.

Theres no fool like an old fool.
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Postby arthur e » Sun Apr 23, 2006 12:20 am

Have got Swallows flying around here on the 19th,they must of flown overnight if you never saw them down South but my usualls haven't arrived to nest in my 6x8 BQ shed yet. I used to keep my hens in the shed but built them a purpose built hut. The shed door had a pop hole in it but I turned the door upside down so the pop hole is at the top and the swallys wizz in and out no probs. The local Geese are still faffing around not knowing wether to fly north or not , don't blame them as it's still a bit Arctic here and I don't know if the Swallys will survive this weather. I had my Nectarine come into flower in the tunnel and have had to pollinate by hand,I have been keeping a look out for Bumble Bees to put in but there has been non around.


The summer will arrive before the Autumn, won't it?
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Postby Tigger » Sun Apr 23, 2006 10:16 am

The RSPB recommend we keep feeding birds throughout the year. Although there's plenty here to keep them well fed in the summer months, I do top up the feeders as well - should I stop?
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Postby Anonymous » Sun Apr 23, 2006 10:42 am

I feed the birds all year round. The reccommendation I heard was that it is important to keep feeding the birds while they are feeding chicks as it is a reliable source of food for them. If the adults don't survive, the chicks won't.

The blackbirds and thrushes here have obviously got young that are quite advanced, as they are taking beakfuls of the food I throw out (ie mashed potatoe, rice, cheese, etc), together with worms.

valmaarg
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Postby Johnboy » Sun Apr 23, 2006 11:09 am

Hi All,
The RSPB have changed their way of thinking because when I last had anything to do with them there information was to cease feeding after the winter.
As for you gardeners feeding them, well, I am at a loss for words! Here I rely on the birds to help keep the pests down and there you all are encouraging the birds to be lazy and not assist you as they might. Just think about it.
I have been an avid birdwatcher since 1937 and was given for my birthday the NEW Observers Book Of Birds
and yes it is a first edition and I am led to believe quite valuable. However in my time it stays right here. In my Library I have a 15ft shelf of books designated to birds. So do not think I do not have the birds in mind when I say cease feeding them NOW!
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Postby Chez » Sun Apr 23, 2006 11:56 am

Hmm... the info on the RSPB site http://www.rspb.org.uk/gardens/whatyouc ... o_feed.asp recommends feeding all year around. I must admit I wasn't sure of this at first, but do it now. According to the RSPB, feeding with peanuts during the breeding season is fine if they are fed from a mesh feeder. That way only smaller portions can be pecked off and not the whole feeder.
Johnboy, I am impressed with what you are feeding your birds, but how on earth do you stop the squirrels eating it all? That's my biggest challenge. Got the peanut sorted so they can't get those, but the fat blocks? Despite the use of an overhead baffle, they just climb up and attack from underneath. I wouldn't mind, but they eat such huge quantities.
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Johnboy
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Postby Johnboy » Sun Apr 23, 2006 1:27 pm

Hi Chez,
The answer to that is simple as I will not see a Squirrel now until the Autumn when my Hazel nuts are ready to eat. At that time the shotgun comes out of it's special cabinet! It is always a race between me and the Squirrels who has the nuts for Christmas.
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Feeding the birds

Postby Anonymous » Sun Apr 23, 2006 3:45 pm

Oh dear Johnboy, I would never have thought I would disagree with you on anything, but with regard to feeding the birds I have to.

As I said previously I feed the birds all the year round. It varies how much is put out for them, certainly from summer through to autumn, very little. At this time of year lots. I think it is essential that people who feed birds during the winter should continue to do so now. It is obvious from the activity in the garden that there are a lot of chicks about. The reason for continuing to put food out now is that it is a reliable source of food for the adults. It sustains them while they search for the (natural) food to feed their chicks. I have seen blue/great tits searching under window ledges, etc obviously looking for food for their chicks As I said, if the adults do not survive, a nest full of chicks won't.

I have a nut feeder whereby the 'tit' can take a peanut out of the feeder and fly off into the shrubbery to eat it. The reason for this is that we have a visiting sparrowhawk. With one of the mesh feeders a bird could easily be 'picked off'. The old thinking that a blue/great tit would try to shove a whole peanut down a chick's throat is rubbish. One of the delights I shall witness in the next few weeks is a fraught adult tit bringing it's little fledglings into the garden, and having taken a whole peanut out of the feeder, chipping off little bits to feed its chick(s).

Sorry Johnboy, but I would encourage anyone who has been feeding the birds during the winter to continue to do so, particularly during the breeding season.

Ever so sorry,

valmarg
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Postby Geoff » Sun Apr 23, 2006 5:29 pm

We too feed the birds all year. Peanuts in mesh feeders regularly repaired when we see large chunks being taken. One of the joys of summer is the woodpeckers bringing their young to be fed and then to learn to feed themselves. We also get birds now that we rarely see in the winter like Siskins. We also feed a seed mixture with extra black sunflower seeds from a tube and on the floor same mixture with added crumbs and other scraps. We get over 20 species in the garden, a first this year was a Jay on the peanut feeders.
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Colin Miles
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Postby Colin Miles » Sun Apr 23, 2006 5:55 pm

It is thought that the problem with feeding birds during late winter/early Spring is that they may start breeding too early when there are insufficient insects available for the chicks. So the adults thrive, lay a bigger than normal brood and the chicks starve. Anyone any thoughts on this?
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Johnboy
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Postby Johnboy » Sun Apr 23, 2006 6:33 pm

Hi Val,
The idea that a Blue Tit will feed a whole nut to a chick is decidedly not rubbish and what is more I had a friend in the village who for that very reason still feeds the birds throughout the year but minces all the nuts into small pieces because of what occurred at her place a couple of years ago. A Squirrel bit a hole in the feeder and 4 out of 10 chicks died in their nestbox because the parents were feeding them whole nuts.
Val,I take it that you live in an urban setting and I live exceedingly rural and what you are doing is creating a situation where there are too many birds in the wrong enviroment. You are making the birds lazy. Here there is an enormous population of Blue Tits, Great Tits,Marsh Tits, Coal Tits and Longtailed Tits on my property with Chaffinch, Bullfinch, Gold Finch etc and I have such things as Chiff Chaff as resident that do not migrate. At present I have found 6 Goldcrest nests in my Yew trees the list is endless.
In the correct location there is no need to false feed any of them.
I'm afraid Val that we will just have to agree to disagree because this is obviously something we hold opposite but entrenched views about.

Sincerely, Johnboy.
Last edited by Johnboy on Sun Apr 23, 2006 6:37 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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