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Posts Tagged ‘feed the birds’

A 'Christmas' Robin

As I sit writing this blog I can see a Robin in the garden perched by the bird feeders, we do not get many Robins in the garden, they tend to appear when the weather turns colder and there is less natural food available, on the allotment though they are about throughout the year often watching and waiting for insects and grubs that have been disturbed whilst digging and sitting on the handle of my spade when my back is turned.

The Robin has long been associated with the festive season, this could be because we see them more in Winter but it may also be because the Robin, also known as the ‘Robin Redbreast’, gave its name to the first postmen who wore red jackets and became known as ‘Robins’, some suggest this is the reason why Robins appear on Christmas cards.

Robins sing all year round, they are one of the few birds that can be heard singing during winter, both the males and females maintain territories for feeding during this period, these may be later become their breeding territories.  Robins can be quite tame during the colder months and with a lot of patience they may eat out of your hand, but despite their cute appearance they are quite aggressive with intruders who enter their territory. Around Christmas-time they begin looking for a mate, by mid-January they will have paired up and the females then stop singing. Male and female birds look identical, young Robins are spotted with golden brown they do not have a red breast until they are 2/3 months old, Robins eat insects, worms, seeds and fruits and are very partial to mealworms.

Open Fronted Teapot Bird Nester and Nest Box

Robins are well known for nesting in unusually places including sheds, greenhouses, plant pots, hanging baskets, under car bonnets and in farm machinery, to encourage Robins to breed in your garden put up an Open Fronted Robin Nest Box or a Teapot Bird Nester, they can be sensitive to disturbance whilst nest building and laying so it is best to stay away at this time, they will lay a clutch of 4-6 eggs, which once incubated by the female will hatch in 13 days, both parents feed and care for the chicks that then fledge at 14 days old even though they are still unable to fly for another couple of days, the parents will look after the chicks for another 3 weeks, Robins normally have two broods a year.

This year for the first time the people of Britain were asked to vote for Britain’s National Bird, it may come as no surprise that the winning bird was the Robin; in total more than 224,000 people cast their votes, the Robin came out top with 75,623 votes, followed in second place by the Barn Owl with 26,191 votes and the Blackbird in third place with 25,369 votes.

This Christmas why not give someone a gift of a Nest Box for the Robins in their garden?

Gill

P.S. Don’t miss out on our two free competitions on the Gardening With Children website in the School Zone and the Family Zone, for a chance to win some bird feeders for your garden, the closing date for both competitions is Thursday 31st December 2015.

 

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Nyjer Seed Feeder

Winter is all about looking after our wonderful wildlife especially the birds, as their natural food resources decline they increasingly rely on us for food and water, putting out a regular supply can make a huge difference. The RSPB monitor British Bird populations using the results from their Big Garden Birdwatch Weekend, if you took part don’t forget to submit your results before 16th February, Schools have another week left to do their Big Schools’ Birdwatch it’s a great classroom activity and a great introduction to birds.

 Blackbird Nest Box

As the days lengthen the birds sense that Spring is on the way, they become noisier this is often to attract a partner or to defend their territory, the next step is to build a nest you may notice birds carrying twigs, feathers or moss in their beaks, now is the perfect time to give birds a hand and put up some nest boxes in your garden/school garden/local community they come in all different sizes and shapes to suit different species of birds, it may take a while for the birds to show an interest in your box, be patient, they will start by ‘checking it out’ to make sure it is suitable and safe, once chosen they will quickly build their nest inside.

Build Your Own Nest Box

Organised by the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) to encourage individuals, families, Schools, Groups and Clubs to put up Nest Boxes in their area, National Nest Box Week (14th-21st February) coincides with the half term holidays so get the children involved, choose and put up some nest boxes in your garden, put up different types to encourage more species, if you really want to get ‘hands-on’ my favourite is the Build Your Own Nest Box Kit it contains everything you need (pre-cut, pre-drilled wood pieces, screws, nails, washers and a hanger) to make your own Nest Box it has a 32mm entrance hole making it suitable for a wide variety of birds including House Sparrows, Tree Sparrows, Blue Tits, Great Tits, Coal, Tit, Marsh Tit, Nuthatches.

 Nest box showing removable sections

If you want to go ‘high tech’ in the garden why not put up a Bird Box with a Camera, you will be able to watch the day to day life of your birds and witness that special moment when the eggs hatch.

So give a bird a new home, there is nothing more satisfying than a bird nesting in your Bird Box especially if it is one that you have made.

Love your environment

Gill

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Snowy Allotment

The weathermen were right the cold weather has arrived, this morning we woke to a snowy winter wonderland there is little chance of doing any outdoor gardening at the moment.

It is too cold to start tidying up the garden, leave dead leaves/vegetation there for at least another month they are homes to many insects and pests such as slugs which although are unwanted provide a welcome meal for birds, frogs, toads and hedgehogs, small twigs/branches will be picked up by the birds to build their nests – a messy garden attracts more wildlife than a tidy one.

Wooden Puddle Duck Boards - Garden Track

It is too wet/frozen to start working on the soil, you can do more harm than good by starting too early, soil can soon become compacted making digging hard work, repeatedly walking on lawns can create a muddy mess, walking on frost covered grass will leave ‘black’ footprints damaging your grass, if you have to cross your lawn why not put down some duckboards they can be easily moved around or removed when not needed and will keep your shoes clean too, they are ideal for laying on your vegetable beds to walk on when you are sowing/planting.

Why not start your gardening year indoors there are lots of jobs that you can do now in preparation for Spring:

  • Have a good sort through your seeds throw away any out of date packets, it is often false economy sowing old seeds as germination rates can be poor and growing time is wasted by re-sowing. Order/buy new seeds, have a look through seed catalogues or on the internet there are thousands of different varieties of vegetables, fruits and flowers available with new varieties each year why not have a change and grow something completely different.
  • Make a Sowing Schedule and a Planting Plan that way nothing will get overlooked and every inch of your garden will be used, have a think back to last year’s crops did some do better that others, should they have gone in sooner, would you grow them again this year?

Onions from sets

  • Onion Sets and Seed potatoes are widely available, buy them early whilst all the varieties are available, choose ones that are firm, disease free and have not started sprouting. Onion sets can be planted now individually in pots, put seed potatoes in egg boxes or seed trays to ‘chit’ make sure the ‘rose end’ of each potato is at the top this is where most of the ‘eyes’ are, place in a light frost-free environment such as a cold greenhouse, polytunnel, porch or on your windowsill.
  • Have a spring clean in your greenhouse/polytunnel/potting shed, de-clutter, re-organise and throw away broken and unwanted items. Wash seed trays, pots, sieves, labels, watering cans, water butts and garden tools with Hortisept Pro Garden Disinfectant, hygiene is very important. Give the greenhouse glass a good clean inside and out with Verritex Pro Cleaning Solution to remove the build-up of algae and let in the maximum amount of light, wipe down the staging and wash out the gutters too.

Sneeboer Mattock Garden Tool

  • Garden Tools are very important and may need some maintenance clean, oil and sharpen ready for Spring. If you already have a Propagator it is a good idea to plug it in and check that it is still working.
  • Buy new compost each year for seed sowing and growing on seedlings and young plants, use last year’s bags of potting compost as a mulch or dig in to improve the soil.

Robin in snow 1

  • Keep the bird feeders topped up and wash out regularly, birds need a supply of fresh water to drink and to bathe in (even if it is cold) bird baths are shallow and will soon freeze up.

Keep yourself busy and warm – Spring is just around the corner (I hope)

Gill

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In life there are few certainties and many uncertainties; the British weather has got to be one of the biggest uncertainties, in Britain we have a very varied and changeable climate not just north to south but regional as well which makes it very hard for our weathermen to forecast, even with new technology. The weather affects everything not just your holiday or BBQ, it also has a huge impact on plants, birds, wildlife and even the seasons too, although Spring comes at the same time each year, it can in fact be early brought on by mild temperatures or late if we have prolonged cold spell with freezing temperatures.

Early Small Tortoiseshell

Unseasonal mild weather can bring creatures out of hibernation early, yesterday there was a Small Tortoiseshell Butterfly fluttering against the upstairs windows if we had let it out it wouldn’t have survived, it is too cold and there are hardly any flowers about so it would have had no food, as well as being an easy meal for a hungry bird. Thomas managed to catch it in his butterfly net and place it safely in his pop up Butterfly House which he then put in a dark cupboard, it has now gone back to sleep, we shall keep checking on it.

10 Fat Ball Feeding Ring

As I write this there are twelve starlings picking food off the lawn and pushing their beaks into the soft ground trying to find tasty worms or grubs, with half a dozen House Sparrows busy on the Seed Feeders, which are filled with high energy sunflower hearts although they are slightly more expensive than bird seed I find there is little mess or waste, the fat ball feeders are very popular with all the birds and need refilling the most often. The weathermen are predicting another cold snap this week from Wednesday onwards which they say will last well into next week I will be replenishing my stock of bird food to keep the feeders topped up.

We get a lot of Starlings and House Sparrows in our garden (both of which are in decline this has become apparent from the results of The Big Garden Birdwatches over the last 36 years) we also get the odd Blackbird, Wren, Robin and amazingly Goldcrest yet we have very few Blue, Great or Coal Tits, recently we have had regular visits from a family of Log-tailed Tits they are a delight to watch and are my favourite bird, we did the Big Garden Birdwatch at home yesterday (Sunday) we were down on species and numbers compared to last year I think this was partly due to the weather, it was definitely milder than previous days which could possibly mean that the birds were searching and finding food in the fields and hedgerows, I am sure the heavy drizzle didn’t help either.

Here is my ‘forecast’ for the week ahead:

  1. Turning colder
  2. Send in the results of The Big Garden Birdwatch
  3. Buy more Bird Food
  4. Keep the Bird Feeders topped up
  5. Stay warm inside and enjoy watching the birds in your garden

Love your environment – whatever the weather

Gill

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This weekend it is the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch (25-26 January), so why not take part in the world’s largest wildlife survey, it will only take up an hour of your time, all you need to do during the hour is to record the different species of birds that you see and the highest number of each species that you see at any one time. Schools and Youth Groups such as Brownies and Cubs can get involved too by taking part in the Big Schools’ Birdwatch again by watching and recording birds for an hour but this can take place 20 January – 14 February. Send in or register your results online, these results are invaluable and will be used to monitor our bird populations and help with their conservation.

If you are going to take part it is a good idea to put out plenty of bird food and feeders beforehand to attract as many birds to your garden as possible click here for ‘Our guide to feeding garden birds’, if you have time why not make some of your own Bird Cakes.

My Fat Ball and Feeder

Home-made Bird Cakes

An adults help is needed to make these bird cakes as you will need to melt your lard or dripping in a pan.

Ingredients

  • Blocks of supermarket Lard or Dripping
  • Bird Seed
  • Raisins
  • Chopped Nuts/Peanuts

Utensils

  • Thin coated garden wire
  • Brush handle
  • Saucepan
  • Clean empty Yoghurt, Jelly or Custard Pots

Making my Fat Balls

What you need to do

  1. Cut your garden wire into 30cm lengths (with adult help)
  2. Wrap half of the length of wire around the handle to form a spiral and bend over the top to form a loop.
  3. Arrange your empty pots in a tray/seed tray, place a wire spiral in each one then fill to about 2/3rd with the seed mixture.
  4. Melt your lard of dripping in a pan, and leave to cool slightly.
  5. Slowly and carefully pour the melted fat into the pots.
  6. Place your pots in a fridge or somewhere cool to set.
  7. To remove your cakes from their pots, dip them in a bowl of warm water and pull out carefully with the wire handle.

Place your hanging bird cakes around your garden in trees, bushes or from your bird table well out of the way of cats and other predators.

If you have a metal fat ball feeder you can make refills by following the above instructions but omitting the wire spiral from the pots, again warm the pots to remove the cakes and drop them into your feeder.

Happy Birdwatching – Have Fun

Gill

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Christmas Day is nearly here and Father Christmas is due to arrive in just over 12 hours, there is still plenty of time to make some home made Mince Pies to put out for him tonight, this is the recipe that I use; I will be making some this afternoon.

Mince Pies Med

Christmas Star Mince Pies

Ingredients

  • 16oz Plain Flour
  • 8oz Butter or Margarine
  • 1 Egg Yolk
  • 1 tbsp Water
  • 1 dessertspoon Lemon Juice
  • 1 jar Sweet Mincemeat 822g approx
  • Caster Sugar

What you need to do

  1. Rub the fat into the flour until it resembles breadcrumbs.
  2. Mix the egg yolk, water and lemon juice together and add to the flour mixture, if it is a bit sticky add some more flour or a bit crumbly a little more water, then gather the mixture into a ball.
  3. Roll out the pastry, cut out the bases with a round cutter, large enough to fit into your bun baking trays (I use shallow trays) and a pastry star for the top with a star shaped cutter.
  4. Place the round pastry bases in your bun trays, add a teaspoon of Mincemeat and top with a pastry star.
  5. Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes at 180C.
  6. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with Caster Sugar.
  7. Leave to cool for 5 minutes before eating.

Makes approx 36 mince pies – enjoy.

We would like to wish you all a very Happy Christmas and a wonderful New Year from Gardening With Children and everyone at The Recycleworks.

Best Wishes

Gill

P.S. Don’t forget to feed the birds over Christmas

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Burnt shed

The remains of our shed and its contents

Life is full of ups and downs, the big plus this year has been the weather but on the downside at the end of June, our garden shed caught fire and burnt down completely to the ground along with all its contents. The shed was full, as I am sure most of yours are, it contained a vast number of DIY tools and accessories, fishing equipment, garden furniture and most of my gardening tools and sundries. As we watched the flames, our feelings were of disbelief and despair which then changed to shock and loss the next day as it all became ‘real’, although 99% of the items will be replaced there are certain treasured items that simply are irreplaceable.

I cannot live without ….

Tools

My long handled fork, and spade are two items that cannot be replaced like for like they belonged to my grandparents, who were both keen gardeners, they had smooth, warm and very comfortable wooden handles, the metal fork tines and spade head had been worn down by a third of their original size making them an ideal size for me to use.

My secuteurs, hand fork and trowel, are the tools that I use the most, I always keep them handy when I am in the garden or on the allotment, the fork and trowel were stainless steel and had wooden handles, I shall choose the same again as they are strong and very comfortable to hold.

My rake, was mainly used on the allotment for levelling soil and creating a fine ‘tilth’ ready for planting and sowing seeds whilst being invaluable in Autumn for collecting fallen leaves.

My garden kneeler will definitely be replaced, it is surprising how much stick your knees take, you only have one pair so look after them.

My gardening gloves, I didn’t use to wear gardening gloves when I was younger but now I cannot do without them they protect my hands and enable me to handle prickly plants or rough objects.

My trusty trug is where I kept all my hand tools in one easy to find place, it then doubled up as a weeding bucket when on the allotment.

There are so many other bits and pieces many of which you don’t realise have gone until you need them.

I can live without …

There are quite a lot of items which I will not be replacing like for like some of which we inherited with the house and some which I am afraid to say I bought when we began work on our overgrown and neglected garden.

Slugs

Slugs were are huge problem initially, as well as picking them off I used to put down blue pellets to control them but since learning what a harmful and devastating effect they can have on animals, pets and birds the tub stayed put on the top shelf, to control any future slug problems I will now be using Slug Gone or Nemaslug.

Pests

In the shed there were quite a lot of harmful pesticides in small numbers aphids and ants are not such a problem and provide an easy meal for the birds but as numbers can quickly multiply I shall make sure that I have some Nemasys No Ants handy.

Vine weevils can really be a problem and it is usually too late for your crops when you discover that you have them, they are quite difficult to get rid of and thrive in pots and containers Nemasys Vine Weevil Killer will definitely be on my shopping list.

Weedkillers

I shall not be replacing the weedkillers that we initially used to clear the garden. Now that it is heavily planted there are very few weeds about, those that appear I tend to leave, weeds are actually wild flowers many of which are beneficial to insects, although on the allotment weeds do need removing as they compete with your crops for light, food and water I shall be investing in a weeder and continuing to doing the job by hand.

Our garden is very much a wildlife haven containing nectar rich plants, wild corners, a pond and a variety of bird feeders, these attract and provide habitat for hoverflies, beetles, hedgehogs, frogs and birds who happily eat my unwanted pests.

Many of us have tools/items that are special to us and we really cannot live without if you do then why not let Sylvia know and you could win a fantastic prize see below for full details.

Your Favourite Things

Imagine you have been shipwrecked on a Desert island and you will have to grow your own food. The wild crops you find on the island already will not give you a balanced diet so you will have to create a garden. You can grow anything in your garden that you can grow at home. You are allowed to take one gardening item with you. What will it be?

What is YOUR most important ‘thing’ when you are gardening? Have you a single inanimate gardening object you would take with you to your desert island? Send your entry to sylvia@recycleworks.co.uk and we will pick out a winner on 30th September. Multiple entries – one entry per email address.

It can be something you inherited from a great aunt. It can be something you made for yourself. It can be something new or old but to win it needs to be something that you as a gardener would never want to part with.

Enter over the month of September and the winner will receive a prize of a Superior Long Raised Bed 30cm deep and 4 bags of Vegetable Compost.

Editor’s decision final. We will look at all the entries and award to the entry we like the best.
 
Good Luck
 
Gill

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