My window looks out over a park, and as the view becomes steadily more verdant, so the birds find fuller voice. I am far from an ornithologist, but as I ran around the park this morning, I saw a robin, blue tit, thrush, goldfinch, blackbird, magpie, a couple of alien parakeets and the ubiquitous pigeon. The bird song is simply uplifting, a spring chorus for us all to savour. It is nesting season, as March to August is the main breeding season for nesting birds, so no wonder they are in full voice.
With the knowledge that the Lawton review of England’s Wildlife Sites and Ecological Network, published by DEFRA in 2010, noted declines of more than 80% of farmland birds since the 1960s, including tree sparrows, corn buntings and turtle doves, I turned my attention to what I can do in my patch. Over the last 20 years we have lost half to three-quarters of insect-eating birds. Some of this is due to loss of their homes. Lots of hedgerows have disappeared from farmland, and fences and walls are the norm in cities.
Growing a hedge with native and trees and shrubs provides food, shelter and somewhere to nest all in one. At this time of year, the RSPB recommend that you avoid cutting hedges and trees. It is actually an offence under Section 1 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act of 1981 to intentionally take, damage or destroy the nest of any wild bird while it is in use, or being built. The RSPB website has free guides to growing a hedge and making it a home for birds.
In the last 12 years, 53% of swifts have disappeared from the South East of England, according to Swift Conservation. Swifts, with their long, scythe-like wings and a short, forked tail, form a familiar silhouette in our summer skies when they arrive to breed. As they nest under eaves and gables, renovations and new buildings have disturbed many of their nesting sites, particularly as swifts often nest in the same holes and crevices for years. Swifts are easily disturbed, so try to avoid doing any roof repairs or other work during the nesting season from May to August.
If space is not such premium and you could make your own sparrows nest box to attach to a wall or tree. The RSPB offers a free DIY guide to building a nest for house sparrows that takes about 3-4 hours. If you do not have a tree, you substitute with a “Branch” bird feeder handmade in Cornwall from solid English Ash from Green and Blue, priced at £35.
Or follow this fun and thifty suggestion from LoveBessie to reuse a milk or soup carton as a home for our feathered friends, reproduced here by kind permission. The reduce and recycle projects are on the backs of cards from LoveBessie’s Lolita Nolita collection. ‘No lita’, get it? The playful designs share Love-ly messages. Simply wash out your old carton thoroughly; draw a window on each of the sides 60mm up from the base; cut out the windows; punch a hole in the top to loop the string and tie with a secure knot; fill the base with birdseed; and voila enjoy the spectacle.
For those not so confident of their DIY skills, I love the colours of this bird house (pictured below) from Traidcraft, that has been woven from rope made from twisted, recycled, misprinted sweet wrappers (priced at £10).
Bird food is widely available from supermarkets, garden centres, and of course the RSPB (all profits support their work). Many household scraps are also a suitable and inexpensive way of feeding birds, but while suet, dried fruits and rice are popular, there are a few don’ts, such as milk or fat from cooked meat. The RSPB provides a comprehensive round up of what to feed, to whom, how and when!
So if you have a few spare moments this long Easter weekend, create a home for some real eggs to hatch.
Photo credits: LoveBessie, Traidcraft