Birds, Conservation, Gary

 

 

The ultimate goal for most gardeners is to have a space that’s teaming with wildlife. A diverse garden is a healthy garden, and birds are an important part of keeping it all balanced. They are the most effective non-chemical method of insect control, they’re pollinators and even take care of some of your weeding; its also really fun to watch them from your window. This guide will go over the basics of creating a garden that will successfully attract birds.

 

Step One – Prepare the space 

 

Just like humans, birds like 5-star accommodation. Before adding bird tables and nesting boxes, you need to first make sure that your garden is somewhere birds want to visit. Below are a few of the first steps you should take to increase your chances of regular visitors

  • Plant the correct trees – trees provide food, water and nesting space for birds as well as being an easy escape from predators. You want to strike a good balance of vegetation in your garden to make it interesting and to satisfy the needs of the birds you want to attract. Fruit trees bearing trees such as Crab apple and plum will provide food and safe space whilst larger species like Oak or Willow are great for shelter. Avoid Sycamores or Cherry trees as they attract insects that  birds don’t

 

  • Be clever with your flowers –  there are an estimated 612 species of bird in the UK, and each one has different food and nesting needs, many are also only active at certain times of the year. Fill your garden with an array of plants that will provide food and nesting material year-round. In summer, try to provide sweet fruits like Blackberries and Mulberries and seeds from sunflowers. In spring you should provide fatty fruits like Mapleleaf and Dogwood whilst autumn and winter should be geared towards persistent fruits like Crabapples and Conifers. By providing year-round food you will see the birds in your garden change with the seasons, keeping it interesting and ever-changing. A list of the best plant choices can be found here

 

  • Place shrubs and plants in same species clumps – in general, this is good practice to help with pollination and fruit yields, but birds love dense foliage to hide in and watch for predators. You will often find that these clumps attract large groups of smaller birds like finches, goldcrests and Wrens. 

 

  • Be insect friendly – inviting insects into your garden may sound counterproductive, but the right species help get rid of pests and aid pollination. You don’t need to worry about the populations getting too big either as they make a tasty snack for lots of bird species. Think about putting a bug hotel, Ladybird tower or Nectar feeder in your garden to establish a healthy and diverse insect species that will attract lots of hungry birds to your garden. 

 

Step Two – Dress it up 

 

Once you have the basics right you can start to add little extras that will keep the birds coming to your garden and make them stay longer. 

 

  • Provide Water –  your plants will provide some water for your birds, but they could always do with a little more. Bird tables are a great way to provide this water as it’s suitable for both drinking and bathing, just ensure that any bird tabes are put close to shrubs so your birds feel safe from predators.

 

  • Make Food Available Year-round – living in the wild is difficult, food is not always available and can cost a lot of energy to obtain. A garden that has a constant and varied supply of food is a win for any passing bird and they will certainly be repeat visitors. You should provide a good mixture of seeds and fat balls that change every now and then to keep birds interested.  

 

  • Put Up Nest Boxes – a garden with ample supplies of food and water is an ideal environment for birds to raise their young. Bird boxes provide shelter and secure living spaces to birds who are rearing their chicks. Place them in trees or up high to protect them from cats and other predators and ensure they are out of direct sunlight. You will get the best results from only putting up 1-2 boxes as many bird species don’t like to compete over feeding and nesting space. 

 

 

Step Three – Make it safe 

A safe garden is one that will bird will return to. Like all animals, if they feel unsafe they will stay away. Providing thick foliage will go some of the ways of doing this, but there are a few small steps you can take to make your garden as safe as possible. 

 

  • Avoid putting food on the ground – It’s best to put any food on a bird table or raised surface as it keeps the food away from competitors or predators.  

 

 

  • Hang bird feeders out of the way – Hang any bird feeders out of the reach of other animals by hanging them from a tree or high place 

 

  • Deter cats from coming into your garden – Birds will sometimes avoid gardens that they know cats often visit. If you don’t want them around consider installing a cat deterrent  

 

Step four – Enjoy the wildlife

 

Following these simple steps will invite birds into your garden year-round bringing your garden to life and giving you a space where something is always going on. How have you made your garden bird-friendly? and what have you seen visiting? Let us know on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter 

 

 

Gary at PrimroseGary works in the Primrose product loading team, writing product descriptions and other copy. With seven years as a professional chef under his belt, he can usually be found experimenting in the kitchen or sat reading a book.

See all of Gary’s posts.

Alice, Animals, Birds, Conservation, Wildlife

Many species of wild animals are on the decline, including hedgehogs, sparrows, and song thrushes. With an estimated 24 million gardens in the UK, these outdoor spaces have huge potential to nurture an array of creatures. Here are some simple solutions for how to help wildlife in your garden.

how to help wildlife in your garden

Go natural

An immaculate garden with with a tidy lawn, perfectly pruned hedges and every fallen leaf disposed of will impress your neighbours, but isn’t the best way to welcome wildlife. Leaves, weeds, and overgrown shrubs provide shelter for insects, birds, and small mammals. Long grass in particular is a great habitat, so make sure to leave at least a patch of your lawn unmown. Weeds are also a food source for many insects, including butterflies and moths.

Avoid pesticides

Pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides will destroy unwanted pests, however chemicals are not selective: they will also destroy other insects including beneficial pollinators. Even insects such as aphids and slugs can be beneficial in maintaining the food chain. Alternative methods to protect your plants include using a cloche or fleece, companion planting, and using grease bands for trees.

Just add water

A pond is a great way of attracting an array of wildlife into your garden, including frogs, newts, birds, and insects. Make sure to incorporate a sloping bank area so animals can easily step in and out, and avoid adding fish as they eat tadpoles. If you don’t have space for a full-blown pond, a birdbath is a great way of providing drinking and bathing water to wild birds, and make sure to leave a bowl of water for thirsty wildlife on hot days.

Feed the birds

Food supplies for wild birds can run short, particularly in the winter, so it’s a great idea to offer nutrition for our feathered friends. It’s important to stick to a regular feeding schedule as irregular feeding could cause birds to expend energy flying to your garden then find there is no food. Make sure food is kept out of the reach of cats, and some of it is protected to allow small birds to feed in safety. Our range of bird feeders has a range of styles to suit various species and garden styles.

how to help wildlife in your garden

Bee-friendly flowers

Bees are highly beneficial pollinators, however due to the varroa mite and agricultural pesticides, their population is declining. Make your garden a rich food source for these creatures by planting open flowers such as daisies; flowering trees (including fruit trees); and legumes such as beans, peas, sweet peas. Sowing multiple plants in succession rather than occasional plants dotted around your garden works best. You can find out more about bee conservation in this article.

Diversity

A garden full of the same flower species creates a bold display, but isn’t great for wildlife. Growing a range of flowers provides a strong supply of nectar and helps create a healthy ecosystem with a wide range of insects, birds, and mammals.

Animal habitats

Bird nest boxes are a great way of providing shelter for wild birds and protecting them from predators. Our collection includes a variety of models to accommodate various species of bird; from small round-holed boxes for tits to more open styles for robins. There are now more habitat options available for other creatures. Our Hedgehog House Care Pack provides a great hibernation haven, and our Ladybird Tower is perfect for housing beneficial insects. Piles of logs and sticks can also provide shelter for various critters.

Compost

In addition to recycling kitchen waste and enriching the soil, compost can also enhance the bacterial and fungal life in your garden, which provides a base for other wildlife. A compost heap can also provide a home for creatures such as woodlice, worms, and frogs. Check out our guide on how to compost here!

A gap in the fence

Make sure animals such as hedgehogs and frogs can benefit the new wildlife-friendly additions to your garden by making sure your fences have some gaps at the bottom to allow wildlife to move through. This will also help link habitats together. However, if you or one of your neighbours have a dog, ensure that the gap is small enough that the dog cannot escape!

Let us know which adorable creatures have been visiting your garden on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram!

 

All About Garden Birds, Animals, Birds, Megan, Wildlife

Welcome to our next post in our garden bird series. Today we will be taking a peek into the lives of chaffinches, one of the most common finches seen in British gardens. Their colourful plumage and loud song make the chaffinch unmistakable and unmissable in terms of bird watching. To find out more about the common chaffinch, read on!

All About Garden Birds: Chaffinches

What Does a Chaffinch Look Like?

The common chaffinch, latin name Fringilla coelebs, is a small passerine bird, or perching bird, that lies in the finch family, alongside goldfinches.

juvenile chaffinch
Juvenile Chaffinch

The male and female chaffinch both have white stripes on their tails and wings, but they differ greatly in colour. Males have strikingly coloured plumage, with a blueish-grey cap and copper underparts. The vibrant colours of the males’ feathers become even more pronounced during breeding season when they are attracting the more plain looking grey-brown females. Juvenile chaffinches resemble the female but are smaller in size.

Where Will I See Chaffinches?

Chaffinches are not migratory birds, so you will see it in the UK all year round. You will find them in woodlands, hedgerows and parks as well as in your garden.

All About Garden Birds: Chaffinches

The chaffinch is present in most of Europe, Asia and northwest Africa and was introduced from its native Britain to many of its overseas territories in the latter half of the 19th century. It is one of the most common and widespread birds in the finch family.

When Do Chaffinches Breed?

Males start defending their breeding territories as early as February, but breeding usually begins in late April. It is largely dependent on the Spring temperatures, occurring earlier in the south and later in the north. Breeding can continue until as late as July.

Mating begins by the male attracting a female to his territory with bird song. Three out of nine calls present in the chaffinch during the breeding season are courtship calls. The first two, “kseep” and “tchirp” are made by the male to facilitate pair formation and the last, “seep”, is a call that signals acceptance from the female. Interestingly, during the winter months when breeding is over, the number of calls diminishes from nine to only two for each sex.

chaffinch perching on a tree branch

Once paired, the female will build a nest with a deep cup in the fork of the tree. Nests are often very well camouflaged and difficult to locate to the untrained eye. Nesting materials include grass, moss, cobwebs and lichen, and the nest will be lined with feathers and rootlets.

Clutches typically consist of four to five eggs and are laid in the early morning at daily intervals. Eggs vary in colour, from off-white with brown spots to blueish-green. They are incubated for around 14 days by the female before fledglings hatch. Young are fed by both male and female before flying the nest several weeks later.

As chaffinches like to nest in trees, it is worth putting up a bird box that will help encourage breeding and may attract chaffinches to breed in your garden.

What Do Chaffinches Eat?

During breeding season, chaffinches feed mainly on invertebrates, feeding insects and caterpillars to their young. They search for their prey by foraging in trees and may even be seen catching flying insects in the air. Other invertebrates in their breeding season diet include spiders, earwigs and aphids.

chaffinch pecking at the ground

Outside of breeding season, chaffinches eat seeds and also feed directly off of plants. They are ground feeders, so you are likely to see them feeding off seeds that have fallen around your bird table. You can always invest in a ground feeder too if you would like to see more chaffinches in your garden.  

Conclusion

We hope you enjoyed finding out about chaffinches in this post! Keep a look out for the next in this series, where we will be taking a deep dive into dunnocks. If you’ve missed out on any post in these series, check them out here:

Robins

Collared Doves

Blue Tits

Goldfinches

Megan at PrimroseMegan works in the Primrose marketing team. When she is not at her desk you will find her half way up a hill in the Chilterns
or enjoying the latest thriller series on Netflix. Megan also enjoys cooking vegetarian feasts with veggies from her auntie’s vegetable garden.

See all of Megan’s posts.

All About Garden Birds, Animals, Birds, Megan, Wildlife

Often kept in captivity in the 19th century due to their bright colouring that attracted a great deal of human attention, the goldfinch is thought of as one of Britain’s most attractive wild birds. To find out everything you need to know about goldfinches, as well as how to attract more to your garden, read on.

Goldfinch perching on branch

What Do Goldfinches Look Like?

The goldfinch is a vibrant and uniquely coloured wild bird, making it easy to spot in your garden. It has a black and white head with a red face. The body is buff to chestnut brown, with black and yellow patches on the wings. Males and females are very similar in appearance, with the female having a slightly smaller red patch on its face.

Two Juvenile Goldfinches
Two juvenile goldfinches

Juveniles have different colouring from adult birds. They have a plain face rather than a red face and a grey body. However, they still have the unmistakable black and yellow wing stripes.

Are There Different Species of Goldfinch?

The European goldfinch, Carduelis carduelis, is a species of bird from the genus Carduelis, part of the finch Fringillidae  family. The species is not to be confused with the American goldfinch, which is part of a different genus. There are 12 species of finch which inhabit the UK, including the chaffinch which we will cover further on in this blog series.

Goldfinch opening it's wings

There are 14 different subspecies of the European goldfinch. The subspecies found in the British Isles is the C. c. britannica.

Where & When Will I See Goldfinches?

Goldfinches are more abundant to the southern England, although are found throughout the UK aside from parts of the very northern parts of Scotland. The birds can be spotted all year round, however some flocks may migrate south during the colder winter months.

Goldfinch on tree

Orchards, gardens and heathlands are just some of the environments goldfinches will inhabit. More generally, they will be present wherever there is rough thistled ground and scattered bushes.

When Do Goldfinches Breed?

Goldfinches breed later than most wild birds; breeding begins in late April and continues until August, but can go on until September if it is still mild. On average, goldfinches attempt 2 or 3 broods, with clutch size spanning from 3 to 7 chicks. Males and females share parenting duties throughout this time.

Goldfinch perched alongside flowers

The male goldfinch attracts a mate by putting on a unique display, involving characteristic mating calls and swaying from side to side. After attracting a mate, nesting will start. The female takes on the role of building the nest, which will usually be sited in a tree or shrub. Nesting materials include grass, mud and roots and the nest will be lined with softer materials such as moss and cobwebs to insulate. The outside of their nest is often adorned with lichen in order to camouflage it from predators.

Eggs are pale blue and lightly speckled. Once laid, they will be continuously incubated for 10 to 14 days by the female. Once hatched, the chicks will be fed regurgitated seeds and plants by both parents. They will fly the nest after about 15 days.

What Do Goldfinches Eat?

Goldfinches mainly feed on seeds, and are especially fond of nyjer. If you want to put out nyjer seeds in your garden, ensure you buy a feeder specially designed for these smaller seeds, as they will fall out of regular seed feeders. Sunflower hearts are also a favourite.

Feeding goldfinches

Goldfinches also feed off seeds of small plants, such as dandelions and groundsel. The long, slim shape of their beak also makes them experts at feeding on thistle. Planting teasel, which has an attractive pink flower that is also appealing to bees and butterflies, will provide an extra source of food for goldfinches too.

As they eat mainly seeds, goldfinches need to drink more water than other species of wild birds. Ensure you provide a fresh water source, such as a bird bath or water feature. If you have a cascading waterfall in your garden, don’t be surprised to see goldfinches enthusiastically bathing in it!

Be sure to stay tuned for the next instalment of this series, where we will take a look at starlings. If you missed the last in the series, be sure to check it out, as we examined the collared dove which is a lesser known species of garden bird.

Megan at PrimroseMegan works in the Primrose marketing team. When she is not at her desk you will find her half way up a hill in the Chilterns
or enjoying the latest thriller series on Netflix. Megan also enjoys cooking vegetarian feasts with veggies from her auntie’s vegetable garden.

See all of Megan’s posts.