Lockdown has been hard. We’ve been deprived of the simple things in life, the things we took for granted and in some cases the things that we thought were important. We tried to fill the void with all manner of diversions. In the early weeks it was all Zoom quizzes, exercise videos, feats of dare and do as we collectively tried to raise our spirits. Puppies became the must have designer item, dogs were walked to within an inch of their lives, Captain Tom tore up the garden – and then the weariness set in.
The good intentions were, many cases, replaced by wine….and beer….oh and lets not forget gin. The Friday night tipple became the Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday night tipple.
The Dawn Chorus
But one thing emerged from all the madness, a renewed appreciation of nature and the beauty of the natural world around us. The molassed canals of Venice suddenly ran clear and as motorways and roads fell silent a new noise could be heard, a noise that had always been there but that now seemed to emanate from every country garden and city park – Bird Song.
The early days of Lockdown heralded some of the best April weather on record, and we emerged into our gardens drawn by the dawn chorus. With many of us working from home or furloughed and the school run shelved, all of a sudden we had time. Time to Listen, time to observe and time to appreciate. Many of us became enthralled by Natures Netflix as every morning and evening our feathered guests put on a show rich in colour and sound, helping us relax and bringing together adults and children. Finally there was something on that the whole family could watch without swearing or the embarrassing love scene.
But as life inevitably drifts back to normal, and we return to the old habits of the past we shouldn’t forget about the little guys who kept our spirits up during those dark days. Now perhaps is the time to think about how we can help our feathered friends with what they need the most: Food, Water and Shelter.
If you’re lucky enough to have a garden with a range of plants including berry-bearing bushes, shrubs and trees for shelter, then you’ve gotten off to a great start. Perhaps consider turning an area of your garden into a wildflower meadow – they are a haven for birds and wildlife. Many birds will happily forage among the familiar plants of a widflower meadow and if its located close to a window you can sit back and enjoy.
But if like me you’re more Alan Partridge than Alan Titchmarsh then talk of wildflower meadows may have you feeling a little out of your depth. But don’t despair, there are other ways for people like us. Grab yourself a decent quality bird feeder – trust me it’s worth going a couple of quid extra – and fill with peanuts or a wild bird seed mix or sunflower hearts. These are the big three and are readily available, but not all bird seed is created equal so again its worth going a little bit extra, you’ll get a lot more bang for your buck. Soon you should have birds appearing in your garden and can start enjoying the their sounds, colour and peculiar habits Over time you can introduce more types of food and in winter and breeding season supplement it with high energy foods such and suet and fat balls. Birds need food most in the Spring during the breeding and fledgling season, and in Winter when natural food sources may be scarce, and they need to be kept warm
Providing clean water for birds all year round is just as important as providing food. Birds need a dependable supply of fresh water to drink and bathe in. All birds are attracted to water, so putting a bird bath in your garden may attract birds that don’t eat seeds and wouldn’t otherwise come to feeders. The best bird baths are shallow with a gentle slope so birds can wade into the water, and remember – keep it clean.
Birds like to feel protected and secure, a bit like us really, and if they are uncertain about the safety of an area, they will not visit it regularly. If you can provide natural shelter like Trees, hedges and plants then all the better, as it creates a safe haven from the elements as well as from predators. But if not you can add supplementary shelters such as bird boxes giving a safe space for birds to lay their eggs.
Look Out for Them
So with Autumn upon us, the kids finally back to school and that annoying person in the office reminding us there’s only 11 weeks to Christmas, think back to those early days of lockdown when our spirits were lifted by an assembled choir of Finches, Tits and Dunnocks, and look out for them as winter approaches and they turn to us for a helping hand.