Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Beneficial Bird Plants

 Ages ago I said I would put up a post about plants that are beneficial to birds. And now I will.
Nasturtium Leaves

Nasturtium Flower

I have grown some in my garden. Cornflowers provide seeds for them, nasturtiums provide a wealth of Large and Small White caterpillars, and sunflowers provide masses of seed, a favourite of Greenfinches (and humans!).

Other Plants:

Fat Hen (Seeds are an important food source for many birds)
Teasel (Attracts Goldfinches)
Honesty (Attracts finches, including Bullfinches)
Lavender, English and French (Finches eat seeds and flowers attract beneficial insects)
Honeysuckle (Attracts insects and many birds eat berries)
Evening-Primrose (Finches eat seeds)
Greater Plantain (Seeds eaten by doves and finches)
Goldenrod  (Seeds for Goldfinches, Siskins and Linnets)
Groundsel (Seeds eaten by finches and sparrows)
All Thistles (Seeds eaten by finches)
Alder (Seeds in cones eaten by many birds)
Hornbeam (Mast eaten)
Hazel (Nuts rich in fatty oils and vitamins, also eat them yourself!)
Beech (Mast rich in energy, a good food for many birds)
Stone Pine and other pines (Pine nuts eaten by lots of species)
English Oak and other oaks (Acorn popular with Jays, but woodpeckers and some others take them)
Barberry and Mahonias (Berries are a popular food, flowers attract insects)
Hawthorn (All thrushes, including Blackbirds eat berries, along with a host of other species)
Strawberry, wild and cultivated. (Fruits eaten by many birds)
Apple (Windfalls popular with most birds)
Crab-Apple (Fruit has higher energy content than cultivated apples, rotting fallen fruit eaten)
Mulberry (Very high vitamin C content. Birds such as thrushes, Starlings and warblers eat them)
Gean (High in vitamin C and energy. Starlings, thrushes and other birds love them.)
Myrobalan (Plums high in calories, vitamin A and C, eaten by Blackbirds and other thrushes)
Bullace (High in sugars, Magpies, Fieldfares, Redwings an many other birds eat them)
Firethorn and other Pyracanthas (Most berry-eating birds, including Waxwings eat them)
Pear (Like apples, mainly fallen pears are eaten.  Fieldfares and other thrushed feed on them)
Gooseberry (Good source of energy and vitamins. Popular with all thrushes)
Blackcurrant and Redcurrant (Devoured by Blackbirds  and most other birds)
Dog-Rose (Most berry-eaters eat the rose-hips, as well as rodents)
Bramble (Popular with many birds)
Elder (Most birds eat the berries)
Grape (Very attractive to Blackbirds and Starlings)

Sunday, 24 June 2012


A week and a bit ago, me and Dad picked some elderflowers. Well, it was more than some, it was a whole carrier-bag full! Here I will show you the recipes for the two Delicious drinks (well we've only tasted one so far) that we made.

Elderflower Cordial

3 lemons, sliced
10 elderflower heads
500g sugar (one heck of a lot!)
2l cold water
1 pint boiling water
A large bowl
Filter paper or muslin
Put the sugar in the bowl and pour over the boiling water. Stir until sugar has dissolved. Add cold water. Leave until tepid. Add the lemon slices, giving each a good squeeze, and then add the elderflower heads. Leave for 24 hours, stirring occasionally. Pour through filter paper or muslin into bottles. Refridgerate or freeze.

Elderflower Champagne (English Fizz)

2 lemons, sliced
2 large elderflower heads
500g sugar
5l cold water
1 pint boiling water
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
Large bowl
Filter paper or muslin
Dissolve sugar in boiling water. Add cold water. Add all other ingredients and leave for 48 hours, stirring occasionally. Filter into bottles (able to withstand pressure). Close tightly and leave. It will be ready in 2 weeks. Release some air occasionally to prevent explosions.

Elderflower Head

Boiling Water



 We tried it out, and deliberately over-done it on the elderflowers, but it tasted really good. It tastes even better if you add carbonated water and ice-cubes to it (or maybe a slice of lemon and a cocktail umbrella  if you are a fancy type of person!) The champagne has not yet brewed fully but we checked it yesterday and it has certainly gone fizzy! Please collect some elderflowers your self and check The Urbane Forager blog for more tasty recipes and how to identify elderflowers, and it is a good blog in general!

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Interesting Insects!

As well as the birds, many other animals live in your garden. Among the most interesting of these organisms are the insects and arachnids. I took some rather strange photographs of some Black Garden Ants doing some queer deeds. Check this out: An old and disused spider's web was strung across a gap in the wall cement. A woodlouse had fallen in and was hanging dead in the web. an ant came out from the hole in the cement behind the web (maybe once where the spider hid) and weaving it's way through the threads of silk, climbed on to the woodlouse. About six more ants came scuttling out and began taking tiny chunks of flesh from the body of the dead woodlouse and stashing them in the hole behind. Gross, I know, but interesting to watch too!
Woodlouse in Web

Another weird ant attack: As i put some more dried meal-worms on the bird-table, I noticed a meal-worm had fallen into a small saxifrage. I picked it up and put it back on the bird-table. Immediately ant came swarming from the plant in their hundreds. In the next saxifrage was another meal-worm. I decided not to pick this one up. an ant came out, followed by a few of her (all worker ants, and indeed other social insects, are females) sisters, and began snipping the meal-worm into segments. There were about four holes in the soil about the width of my finger. An ant came out of one of these, carrying a meal-worm head in her jaws. By now the others had cut up the other meal-worm and were carrying the segments down into one of the holes. It was fun (you may not agree!) watching them, so I took a meal-worm from the bird-table and broke it into segments. I scattered them around and soon after, the ant carried the segments down the holes. It was like an on-going production line of ants chopping and carrying and coming back for more.

Ant Hole

Two Ant Holes and a Sunflower Seedling

Meal-Worm in the Saxifrage

How Many Holes!?

 You may not like the idea of wiggly insects, but remember they are crucial in the survival of many different birds! Tell me if you find any weird insects (or other creepy-crawlies) doing weird things!

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Finally, Some Photos of Actual Birds!!!

After much waiting and many camera-fails (including spilling batteries, camera shutting down, and accidently whacking myself in the face with the camera), I finally managed to take a few photographs of live birds! I did take some of a Wood Pigeon and one of a Stock Dove, but they all came out blurry. Bummer!! But fortunately, I did capture many of female House Sparrows, and one of a male on a feeder. Some actually look pretty professional, I think!

I am really very pleased, and I hope the subjects of the photos live long and happy lives. Aww, aren't they sweet! Please keep me informed of birds visiting your garden!

Friday, 15 June 2012

A Morning Surprise

Over breakfast this morning, Jacob (my nearly 14-year-old brother) said that a bird had just smacked into the window and injured itself. I thought he was just tesing and making me rush outside to find nothing, but when my mum did check out there, she said there was a tiny bird on the floor. Jacob had a look and told me it was a Goldfinch. I thought, Goldfinches are not tiny, and right I was. When I took a look, a juvenile Blue Tit lay in a box, looking dazed. And Jacob says he knows more about birds than me! Spends too much time on the XBox 360, I think! Ha-Ha.

The Injured Tit

But thankfully the inexperienced young Tit was okay. Just as my dad was finding the phone number of the local bird rescue, the bird let out a high-pitched typical Tit ptwee call and and tok off. With a few determined flaps of effort from the wee birdie's tiny wings, it was up and away in no time. If you do find an injured bird, here are some tips on what you can do:

  • Gently scoop up the 'victim' and place in a shallow, bedding (hay, straw, wood-shavings, sawdust, shredded paper) filled box of tub and leave outside uncovered for about 45 minutes.
  • If the bird has not rcovered by then, bring it inside in its box and keep in the dark and warmth (in the airing-cupboard for example) phone an RSPB-reccomended wild bird rescue such as the world's leading animal hospital, TiggyWinkles, tel: 01844 292292 web:www.sttiggywinkles.org.uk. An expert will come and collect the bird.
  • Take a peep at this:

Caring for a Wild Bird that Cannot Fly in 7 Steps

  1. Avoid stressing the bird further by eliminating any distractions. If you have other animals, or children keep them away so as not to harm the bird
  2. Contact a wildlife rehab centre. Your vet may be able to tell you the telephone number of a suitable rescue or rehab centre. If the bird is properly injured your vet may treat wild animals or have the phone number and address of a rescue centre. Some domestic animal rescue centres have their own wildlife clinic away from the domestic animals. 
  3. Approach the bird slowly and drop a towel gently over top of it. Have patience. If you cannot come close enough to the bird to do this, do not chase it. Use a towel that will not unravel. The birds nails can easily get caught in towels that are terry cloth or have loops in the fiber.
  4. Scoop up the bird in the towel and very gently place it into the box, towel and all. Secure the box with tape, being sure that there is enough air circulation for the bird to breathe. Keep the box in a dark, warm area where there are no loud noises. You can keep a heating pad on low under one half of the box. If you have to take the bird in yourself to the rehab center, do not have a radio on in your vehicle- noises will frighten the bird.
  5. Do not attempt to feed the bird or perform any first aid. Birds are very easily stressed by handling and need an experienced veterinarian to care for them.
  6. Deliver the bird to a licensed wildlife rehabilitation professional or a veterinarian who is willing to accept the bird. It is illegal (in the USA) for unlicensed individuals to possess any wild bird for any reason beyond overnight care before transporting to a rehabilitation site. Birds have diverse requirements for diet, care and wild birds do not adapt well to captivity.
  7. Ask the rehabilitation expert if you can release the bird if he is able to get well again. Often birds should be released near where they were found. That is the best reward for the kindness of rescuing an injured bird!

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Natural Food Collecting

It is well worth collecting wild nuts and berries (and other fruits and seeds for that matter) for the birds in your garden in winter. If no such plants are growing in your garden presently,  consider planting some (if you have space). Natives are better as they attract more insect life, and consequently more bird life. But for the time being, you can just collect these foods. Chestnuts, hazel-nuts (cob-nuts) and beech mast are good, plus, keep some for your self. YUM! if you have Goldfinches in the gardenlike I do, it is a good idea to pick some thistle and teasel seed-heads (on the stems) and dry them out. When winter comes, push these dried stems into the soil. Goldfinch beaks are made for the task of extracting the seeds! Soon I will put a post up with all the bird-friendly plants you can collect fruit and seeds from or grow in your garden. Also, if you like to forage for fruit and nuts to eat yourself,  any rotten or bruised ones unsuitable for storage, feed them to the birds. They don't care about rot! And why don't you visit www.theurbaneforager.blogspot.co.uk , a great blog on foraging from Alan Gibson. I have not collected any fruit and nuts yet, but I will report back when I have.

Saturday, 9 June 2012

The Garden Usuals

Maybe a Robin or a Goldfinch may visit the front garden, but not much. the back one is so much more productive. Many birds visit the feeding-station, and some visit the "bird shelf", and some feed on the seed sptrinkings on the ground. Some may visit the garden just to sit on the fence and sing. Here I will make a list of the usual species, the ones who visit  nearly every day.

  • Greenfinches
  • Chaffinches
  • Goldfinches
  • Robins
  • Carrion Crows 
  • Rooks
  • Magpies
  • Black-Headed Gulls
  • Wood Pigeons
  • Collared Doves
  • Stock Doves
  • Blue Tits
  • Great Tits
  • Coal Tits
  • Blackbirds
  • House Sparrows
  • Willow Warblers and Chiffchaffs
  • Sometimes Marsh or Willow Tits
Next Door's Lovely Roses
My Apple Sapling
A Mixed Planted Watering-Can
Bird Shelf

My Birthday Lilies

Watering-Can With Pinks

A Trip to the Mill Pond

Just for a short half-hour walk to break up the day, we (me and dad) walked round the Emsworth Mill Pond. One more opportunity to see some great birds! I took some bird-seed in an old ice-cream tub (makes a change from bread for the waterfowl doesn't it?) and what good that was! Near the end of the walk, virtually every bird on the Pond (it's more of a Lake really!) was gathered round one couple with a bag of stale bread. Their bread ran out, so the fowl all moved accross to our side. But they all paddled over to another couple with food for them. That food ran out and they finally gathered round us.

 They looked much happier eating proper grain that stale crusts! Almost half of tis enormous gathering were Mute Swans. The rest were mainly Mallards, drakes as well as ducks, plus some Coots and Moorhens who were resting on the banks who joined in at the last minute. Furter back, by the boats, were a strange pair. A Mute Swan, seeming not to want to be with the others, was being surprisingly "chummy" with The Lone Canadian Goose, the only goose on the pond.

The Lone Canadian Goose

 I fed them and moved on. AWWW! It was quite a good walk with some quite good birds. A Coot exploding out of a mallow clump was quite funny. I sensed that there was a Mallard in there for some reason, and I wasn't far off! Well, a good reason to make an entry on the blog anyway! Good Birding!

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Help The Birds!

It is June and a busy time for birds. many are raising families and may be gathering up to as much as 20 times as much food as usual!! Help them by putting out a feeder, or even better, make a feeding-station. The two most common feeder types are seed and peanut feeders.  These vary greatly in quality and price. Other feeders include fat ball feeders, suet or bread feeders,  and feeders with predator protection cages. When you buy fat balls, they generally come in a green or red mesh net, ready for hanging. Handy! You can make home-made feeders and food too. Get a  small 250ml coke bottle and cut some holes in it near the base. Put in some seed, and you're done! or, scatter kitchen scraps on the lawn or put them in a special scrap basket. Melt some suet, put some seed in, stir it, pour it into a pot or coconut shell half, and put on the bird table. Great! You can put out a bird bath if you want which will attract more birds than I get! (I don't have a bird bath.) Now you have those birds coming!

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Welcome :o)

Hello and welcome to my blog. Whether you have been watching birds for a long time, or are a complete beginner, watching birds sing, call, and flitter around your garden is a never-ending joy for all concerned.

A good way to start is to hang out a bird-feeder. There are many styles of feeder, and a near-endless variety of feed to put in them.

As you become more experienced, you will be able to keep a more and more detailed record of the birds visiting your garden.

Good luck, bird-lovers!