As this is the last Wildlife enquiries blog before Christmas we want to wish all of you who have taken the time to read our blogs this year a merry Christmas and a happy new year! It doesn't look like we'll be seeing the Lodge looking like the below picture this Christmas, although we may need a boat to get in and out soon given the promised wet weather!
Andy Hay (rspb-images.com)
But it won't be long before we start seeing these popping up!
I hope that you can get out and about this Christmas, good luck tracking down some of the wonderful winter wildlife around at the moment like these cheeky chaps and I hope you manage to enjoy some nature in between the mince pies, Christmas pud and presents!
David Kjaer (rspb-images.com)
Fed up of tinsel and twinkly lights everywhere? We've got some festive ideas for (outdoor) tree decorations to help the wildlife! These might not look quite so dazzling as a flashing santa or a neon reindeer but they will attract in the birds! I'm sure you will all agree that our feathered friends can brighten up our gardens better than any shiny ornament during the dark winter days! You may need to prepare yourself to get a bit messy!
Dipped pine cones - For this you will need some foraged pine cones that are intact and open. You will also need a large bowl, some lard and any bird seed, porridge oats or crushed nuts that you wish to add to the lard. Some string to hang them up is also useful. All you need to do is to warm the lard so it's pliable, get your hands in and mix in your extra treats and then roll the pine cones in the mix until you are satisfied they are well stuffed with tasty lard bird treats. Pop them in the fridge to set and then when they are nice and solid pick a tree or hedge and hang them up! Visiting members of the tit famliy will probably be first in line!
Popcorn and monkey nut tinsel - This is one for those with lots of patience! You need a needle, some tough thread and some unsalted plain popcorn and/or monkey nuts. Thread the tasty treats along the thread and then hang the string around or across a tree or hedge. The length will depend on your patience!
A gingerbread or pastry angel - Pastry is popular with birds and a pastry angel for the top of your tree is going to be a popular edible decoration with your garden birds. There is a recipe here, there is no need to bother with the icing! If you make a batch of slightly small ones try hanging them up on the tree.
Multi-coloured fat baubles - To make fat baubles you will need to follow the lard recipe for the pine cone treats but this time if you want to add some food colouring (it won't harm birds). When you have got them all mixed and in a range of interesting colours, whilst the lard mix is still pliable roll them into balls. In order to hang them up at this stage poke a hole through the middle and thread some short bits of string with a knot on the end, tie a loop in the other end so you can hang them up. Let them set in the fridge and hang them up when they are solid. You could of course go for different shapes using a dough cutter to make lard stars etc.
Fruit cocktail - Apples and pears that are a bit over ripe are really popular with blackbirds and if you are lucky waxwings. Try slicing the fruits and pushing the slices onto sticks or bits of string so they can hang from the trees.
I hope that these ideas give you some food for thought this Christmas. If you have any questions or your own ideas for bird food tree decorations please share them in the comments section!
Hopefully the first installment has given you lots of ideas about where to out up nesting boxes with small entrance holes. Looking for something else to do? How about some open fronted boxes for those sheltered spots?
Small open fronted boxes can attract a range of species, the size of the opening influences which species is likely to be attracted. The below species are listed below with the height the front panel needs to be for that species if the box is built to the specifications on our small nestbox plan.
robins (100 mm)
wrens (140 mm)
pied wagtails (100 mm)
spotted flycatchers (60 mm)
I have known blackbirds to nest in the more open kind of these boxes as well.
Now, location. Wrens and robins like to nest in dense cover. Ideally for these species put the boxes amongst foliage, an ivy or clematis covered trellis or fence would be ideal. Whilst they often nest on or near the ground, for both species I would suggest locating the box around 5 or 6 feet high within the foliage. Whilst this is the norm, you will see them nesting in boxes that are located in more open situations where buildings or trees provide them with shelter. Locating the boxes tucked under the over hangs of garage or shed roofs can be an effective location. This would also apply to the spot' fly's and pied wag's though they like a clear outlook, often nesting a bit higher off the ground, whilst the wrens and robins don't mind a sheltered entrance.
Most of these locations will be well protected from environmental conditions however it would be worth ensuring that the boxes are not getting full exposure to summer sun, predominant winds and lashing rain.
We've got a number of suitable boxes in our shop if making your own isn't on your to do list, they make a great present, have a look here.
Any questions, fire away in the comments!