THE winter months can mean a tough time for our feathered friends so, with the temperature dropping and the ground hardening, now is a good time to give them a helping hand. MERYL JONES looks at ways of attracting birds onto your plot.
ALTHOUGH some birds, such as pigeons, are considered to be a nuisance to allotments most birds are beneficial, and supporting wildlife can ensure a balanced ecosystem.
Many birds eat aphids, caterpillars, slugs, snails and sawfly and can also aid pollination, Allowing a wide range of insectivores on your plot will reduce the need for pesticides.
Regular inhabitants and visitors to St Julians Allotment include:- robins, thrushes, blackbirds, tits, chaffinches, woodpeckers, sparrows, wrens and charms of goldfinch among many others.
A means to attract birds
If you’re trying to attract birds don’t be too tidy by clearing your plot at the end of the growing season. Leave seed bearing flowers; veg such as sunflowers, artichokes, fennel, sweetcorn; and windfall apples and pears on the ground.
- Plant verbena, teasels, asters, marigolds. If your plot has a hedge border encourage holly, ivy and honeysuckle – birds depend on hedgerow for survival.
- Turn manure heaps occasionally for blackbirds and thrushes to have a good root through.
- Open fruit cages to allow birds to clear grubs and other nasties from your fruit bushes
- Break ice on water butts – birds need water for bathing and drinking
Feeding birds on the allotment is a commitment. Only begin if you intend to continue throughout the winter, as the birds quickly become dependent on your contributions.
- No Mess Bird food: a little more expensive than whole seeds, but little chance of any waste seeds germinating and causing a weed problem in the spring
- Niger Seeds: These require a special feeder with small slits that only allow small beaked birds to feed and and are particularly good for attracting goldfinches
- Peanuts: A caged peanut feeder is necessary on our site as we have many big birds that will empty a peanut feeder in minutes. Peanuts are a favourite with tits and woodpeckers
- Fat Balls: These can be messy and quite unpleasant, but when it is especially cold they are a life saver for many birds who need to keep their weight up to survive a harsh winter. Try and avoid the cheap ones that use sawdust as a filler. Unless, they are in a caged feeder large birds such as jackdaws will wolf them before the small bird can get to them.
- Other Foods: These include sunflower seeds, mealworms, half coconut .