JANUARY can sometimes be a bit depressing; an anti-climax after the excitement of Christmas and a feeling of disappointment that there’s still a way to go before an end to dark mornings.
All is not lost in January, though. It’s a wonderful month to see some charming birds, and if you ensure your garden feeders, tables and bird baths are topped-up, you won’t even have to leave the comfort of your own home to see them. A cold snap can be disastrous for birds, so they need all the help they can get when temperatures plummet.
The RSPB suggests calorie-rich foods like mixed seed, nyjer seed, fatballs, suet sprinkles, sunflower seed and good quality peanuts, as well as kitchen scraps, like mild grated cheese, rice and porridge oats. These high energy snacks will ensure the birds can keep warm and are fighting fit when the breeding season begins – as parents out there will know, it not easy bringing up a family. A supply of water is also essential for bathing and preening. In freezing conditions birds become more dependent on water provided in gardens, since many natural sources are frozen over.
The most effective way to keep the water in your garden from freezing is to pop in a light ball that will be moved by even a gentle breeze and keep a small amount of water ice free – a ping-pong ball is ideal.
Alternatively, pour on hot water to melt the ice to make sure the birds can get to it. If you can tease yourself out from in front of the fire this month, grab your spade and do a bit of digging.
Turn the soil over to expose some tasty worms and you’ll soon be visited by a hungry robin – they seem to have a sixth sense about these things. The digging will also benefit your soil by helping to break up the bigger clods. Ensuring you feed and water your garden birds this month will not only make sure they stay healthy and looked after, it’ll also encourage them into your garden just in time for you to take part in the world’s biggest wildlife survey. The RSPB’s annual Big Garden Birdwatch is back on Saturday 26th and Sunday 27th January, giving people across the UK the chance to be part of the world’s biggest wildlife survey.
To take part, you’re asked to spend just one hour at any time over Big Garden Birdwatch weekend noting the highest number of each bird species seen in your garden or local park at any one time.
You then have three weeks to submit your results to the RSPB, either online at www.rspb.org.uk/birdwatch or in the post. Enjoy! Kate Humble