As Britain faces a sharp decline in our native wildlife species, coast editor-in-chief Alex Fisher begins a year’s journey to make her garden more wildlife-friendly. Will you join her?
This month I have a slightly sad story to tell. Having got out my bird identification book and put up my RSPB bird table, I sat and watched through my window early each morning, waiting for visitors. It took a couple of weeks, but eventually I was delighted to see a goldfinch on my table. This was followed by blue tits, coal tits and a robin. Not as many as I saw as a child, but still, I was reassured that they still exist in my neighbourhood. However, a few days later I found the goldfinch dead, having been killed by my very own cat.
Despite following RSPB guidelines of only putting food on a high bird table and making sure all feeders were at least 5ft off the ground with access to cover, my beautiful visitor had still been caught. The RSPB reassured me that although cats catch an astounding 27 million wild birds in the British Isles every year, they are not responsible for the huge decline in our native bird populations. This is more due to the destruction of habitats by building houses, roads and businesses and also changing farming practices. Despite this, I decided it was time for Maisy to wear a bell, After all, domestic cats are not under threat, but wild birds are. I’m happy to say she has got used to this very quickly and seems perfectly herself. Another tip I had from a cat-loving friend was to make furry toys filled with cat nip. When a cat kills a bird and leaves it on your doorstep, they are trying to give their owner a special gift. My friend found her cats brought her the furry toys instead of dead birds, so this is something I shall try this month too.
As winter draws near, it’s helpful to include suet in the bird food you put out. This fat helps keep birds’ energy up during cold weather. The RSPB suggests buying your suet balls or block from a reliable source, to ensure they contain the right food for our birds, such as millet seed, suet, rapeseed and linseed and avoid any that include chalk, as this does not offer nutritional value. If you haven’t got a bird feeder, suet balls can be crumbled onto a bird table. This should attract blackbirds, blue tits, great tits, long-tailed tits, starlings and robins.
TOP TIP: Do not hang up suet balls in the net feeders they are sometimes sold in. Birds can get their feet caught in these nets. Instead, invest in a proper feeder.
JOIN THE CHALLENGE!
Rewild your garden with me and let’s see if we can make a difference and bring more wildlife, and pleasure, into our lives. Share photos with me by email [email protected],
Twitter and Instagram @alexfishermedia #coastrewild.
Explore more in our nature section.