As a well-loved pussy-cat, I’m lucky enough to have regular meals and a selection of warm cozy places to sleep. I have also put many hours of practice into refining my techniques for charming John into giving me extra treats (no doubt he would describe it as harassment)! But for the garden birds, finding food is hard work, so an extra meal from your kitchen or some commercially available bird food will help them keep going, especially during the winter months.
October is a good time to start putting food out for the birds. Feed them until the end of April when they should be able to find plenty of food for themselves. Although in long dry summers, the chaffinches will be searching for seeds that may be scarce, plus the hard ground might make it difficult for the blackbirds and thrushes to catch worms. Treats you can put out include natural peanuts in their shells, wild bird seed, suet or fat balls (always remove and cut up any netting which can trap and kill wildlife), cooked rice, potato or pasta and bruised fruit such as apples or pears.
Now you might be wondering why a carnivorous member of the felidae species would know so much about birds. Well I’ll tell you. John and I like to photograph them and have spent many a happy moment watching them through the windows. Feeding the birds has brought me closer to them and I marvel at their fascinating behaviour and wonderful colours. I’ve watched them flirting with each other at the bird table and squabbling at the feeders, I ‘ve watched them play together in the snow and huddle up on a branch to keep warm.
According to the RSPB, over half of adults in the UK feed the birds in the garden, so that’s a lot of extra help for the birds! But its important to feed them responsibly and safely. There’s lots of advice about bird tables, hygiene, feeding and what birds to expect on the RSPB website. Don’t forget to avoid foods that may be toxic to the birds or other wildlife as well as domestic animals such as cats and dogs.
Talking about cats, many of my feline cousins are hunters who might be tempted to lurk in a garden that attracts the birds so try to reduce the risk of cats catching them. Any food on the ground should be at a distance from shrubs and thick grass where a cat could lie in wait ready to pounce. Place feeders up high and away from surfaces from which a cat could jump and use spiny plants like holly around the base of a feeding stations to stop them loitering there.