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LOCAL LIFE

Easy-to-make Bird Cake For this, you’ll need plenty of good quality bird seed. Add some peanuts, raisins and a little grated cheese if you want. Put these ingredients into a mixing bowl.

good idea through the winter months. In fact, the RSPB says that by feeding birds all year, you’re giving them a better chance to survive periods of shortage whenever they occur. But different times of the year warrant different types of food, and by being selective you’ll help them thrive naturally. During the autumn and winter, natural sources of food are rare so regular feeding can literally save lives. It’s at this time that birds need to maintain their fat reserves to help them endure the bitter frosty nights, so (unlike us) they require high levels of saturated fat. Raw suet and lard is perfect – but never feed fat that’s been used for cooking, as this will be unhealthy for the birds. Margarines and vegetables oils should also be avoided. Nuts (such as peanuts) provide a welcome source of protein and fat but during very cold spells these can freeze. A good method of supplying both seed and fats – containing the essential nutrients the birds need – is in the form of a bird cake or bird food bar. These are excellent winter foods and are widely sold, and you can easily make your own at home (see our recipe on the right). In the spring and summer birds require high-protein foods, especially when they’re moulting. Good seed mixes, black sunflower seeds, soaked sultanas, raisins and currants, mild grated cheese and even soft apples and pears are all good to provide. Hard foods such as peanuts should be avoided during breeding periods as adult birds may be tempted to feed these to their young, which could cause choking.

KLmagazine March 2011

Mealworms are a popular favourite of robins and blue tits and may also attract other insect-eating birds. “Don’t worry if your garden is empty at first,” says Dave Hawkins. “Keep putting out the food and eventually they’ll come. The birds will tell each other where the free lunch is, and soon they’ll be flocking in! It’s important to only put out enough food for a day or two – you don’t want the birds to be eating food that’s gone rotten. In built-up areas you should still see a number of starlings, blue tits, sparrows, blackbirds, robins and finches throughout the year. More rural areas can expect to see wrens and chaffinches too as well as the odd woodpecker, coal tit or nuthatch. It’s great to get the children involved and make a note of what you have seen feeding in your garden each day. There’s a wealth of information on feeding garden birds on the RSPB website.” Come the winter, you may be rewarded with sightings of birds from Scandinavia and Russia who have flown here for our milder climate – including bramblings, siskins and thrushes. Plant some berrybearing bushes in the garden and you may even attract a stunning waxwing. Sparrowhawks might also be attracted to your garden, but not to the seeds and peanuts – they’ll be after the blue tits! Some final points to remember if you are keen to make your little piece of the outdoors a haven for all things feathered are: HYGIENE Always keep feeders and tables clean, regularly washing outdoors so as not to spread disease. WASTE Only put out the amount of food

Then take 85g/3oz of fat (suet or lard) which has been left in a warm place for about an hour. Cut this up into small pieces, and rub it evenly into the seed mixture using your fingertips. There’s actually no need to melt the fat as suggested in most recipes. To hang the mixture, find an empty yogurt container and make a hole in the bottom. Simply make a knot in a length of string and thread it through the hole until the knot holds it in place. Empty the cake mixture into the pot and leave in the fridge to set for an hour or so before you hang it outside. It’s quick, it’s easy, and it’s great for tits, greenfinch and (if you’re lucky) even a great spotted woodpecker!

you know the birds will eat within 3-4 days. Food left for a week will begin to rot, which isn’t healthy and may attract disease carrying vermin. WATER It’s important when putting out bird food to also give the birds access to a shallow supply of water – ideally in a lowsided dish in which they can drink or bathe. “Large shallow plant pot trays are perfect,” says Dave. “I use an especially wide tray propped up at one end with a small block so there’s a very slight incline. That way, both small and large birds can use it. Aim to have up to an inch of water – just remember not to place it directly under the table where it could get food or dirt flicked in it.” Sit back, pull up a chair and enjoy the company, knowing your doing your little bit to help the wildlife around you. KL

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March 2011  
March 2011  

The March 2011 issue of KL Magazine

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