How to support garden birds with your gardening in January
This is a great time of year to get out in the garden and get things started. There are quite a lot of jobs you can do to help wildlife and get closer to nature. With the big garden bird watch just around the corner, it’s a perfect opportunity to support birds and wildlife.
There are also lots of things to see outside. The birds are ramping up for Spring and their activities can be fantastic to watch. If you spend time listening and looking you can find lots of joy in the garden.
What to see in the garden
The Dawn Chorus begins
The changes in song give them away. The birds are not just making noise, or alarm calls like the shriek of the Blackbird or the alarm call of a blue tit. They have been composing since September and now their songs are in full swing. Complete with verses and chorus your garden birds will be breaking out into tunes.
Their songs are no longer about alarms but now they are marking out territories. Songs signal spaces and places and they are making other birds aware that this is where they want to be in Spring. It is where they will ultimately raise their broods. This is no longer a reactive song but a fully-fledged (excuse the pun) I’m here and I am staying put for the Spring.
If you take the time to listen, sometimes from the early hours, you will really notice the build-up of the song in your garden. The more songs you have the more you might see of the birds in Spring.
Woodpeckers & Jays
Birds become opportunists at this time of year. They have to be to survive. You might find you see more birds like Woodpeckers, Jays and even the odd predator in the garden. They too will be looking for food.
You will also get migrants and if the weather is really cold we could see birds like fieldfares, redwings and other farmland birds coming in their numbers to the garden.
You might find you need to add more food to the garden tables and feeders to support these birds. Leaving out apples and fruits can really help them and the thrushes too.
Lots of birds on the feeders
The garden birds are in survival mode at this time of year. Cold weather overnight could be a deadly thing for small birds. Birds like Goldcrests have to feed all day just to survive the night.
You will see lots of birds on the feeders getting their daily fill. Adding food early in the morning will help them as the days are still not as long as some of them need.
There are some key things you can do in your garden that will support birds and other wildlife. The wilder the garden, obviously the more it will attract. That doesn’t mean it needs to be messy, but most wildlife prefer irregular lines rather than straight.
Leaves, dried stems and the seed heads of flowers provide shelter for over-wintering lacewings, ladybirds and other insects.
A pile of fallen branches is likely to have become home to a rich variety of wildlife, even a hedgehog. Instead of having a bonfire, rake rotting branches, grass clippings, fallen leaves into heaps and leave them to rot down naturally.
Bird Feeding is really important. Choose a good quality bird food and get it out for the birds to eat. Add unsalted kitchen scraps too like cheese and apples.
In nature you will find very little bare ground. It’s a good idea to apply this rule to your own garden. If for instance you have ground under shrubs and trees. Try adding crawling plants like ivy and periwinkle. This will support and sustain life for insects and wildlife.
Creating ivy fences and hedges, letting it grow, will support birds with nesting and finding places. Wrens, Robins & Blackbirds are struggling more and more to find adequate nesting sites. Leaving things to grow will help them.
There are some great garden jobs to do and things to get started on ready for spring — here are some ideas:
- Nestboxes — adding nestboxes now will mean that birds start to use them. They may even roost in them on cold nights
- Check bird baths — make sure bird baths are cleaned, unblocked and ready to go for spring. If they are icy at this time of year make sure you de-ice them (you can add a ping-pong ball to the water to help)
- Fresh water — adding fresh water each day is great for small garden birds. At the moment they may struggle to find it. They drink all the time and still bathe in the winter.
- Plan your garden — plan out what you want to do in your garden over the coming months. Think about when fledgling seasons are (no chopping those hedges) and when birds will need you the most.
- Add shrubs and trees — getting shrubs, trees and flowers in now is a great way to support wildlife in the coming months.
- Prune fruit trees — this will help them grow stronger and produce better yields
- Trim the hedges — trim hedges back now before fledgling season begins. You don’t want to disturb nesting birds in March onwards.