Postcards from Slough
Postcards from Slough

Garden for Wildlife

This page and the others attached are about some of the flora and fauna to be found in a Slough garden, my garden. When my wife and I moved into our house it was new and the back garden was just a rough lawn laid by rough developers. We soon designed and built the garden giving it a split-level lawn, a pond and rock garden along with some borders in which to plant wildlife-friendly plants.

 

The garden covers an area of just 90 square metres but in nearly thirty years of living here, I have observed 48 species of birds, 9 species of butterflies, 30 species of other invertebrates, 5 species of wild mammal and at least two species of bat. It wasn’t an intensive scientific study, it was just casual observation by an amateur taken over time.

 

The easiest creatures to observe are birds and so are the easiest to understand and provide for but there are other things that can help attract a wide variety of wildlife.

Wildlife-friendly features

Bird boxes

I added several features to attract and support wildlife in my garden. I fitted two bird nest boxes to the rear of the garage, both of which have been used by blue tits and great tits during a number of seasons.

 

A nest box should be fitted so that it can’t be bothered by predators such as cats and the entrance hole should not face the hot midday sun otherwise the chicks will cook. Don’t be tempted to fit perches because that will simply help predators such as magpies.

 

I built a robin nest box and fitted it onto the back fence within the ivy and has been used successfully. Robin boxes are different as they have an open front and that is why they must be fitted in cover.

Bird table

A bird tables is best mounted on a pole in the open where it can’t be attacked by predators like cats. They can provide entertainment as birds like starlings spend more time arguing then feeding, while smaller birds like sparrows quietly sneak in and actually feed. Throw scraps out onto the lawn for birds like dunnock and robins that are less keen to visit the bird table.

Bird bath

The example below consists of a plant pot tray screwed to a pole but it means the tray has a fixing hole in it. A second tray which does not have a hole is laid inside to hold the water.

 

It is important to provide clean water for birds all year round as in winter puddles and ponds can freeze up and sources of water can dry out in the summer.

Hanging bird feeders

There are a number of types of hanging feeders for birds, each for different foods to attract different species. Hanging feeders may indirectly provide food for ground feeding species as messy birds on the feeders discard food to the ground.

 

The main nut and seed feeders are designed to hold the foodstuffs in the photograph and each may attract different birds but they do not guarantee results on their own. They can only attract birds to your garden if the local environment is already supporting a particular species.

  • Nyjer seed for goldfinches, use a special nyjer seed feeder

  • Peanuts for blue tits, great tits, long-tailed tits greenfinches and other small birds. May also attract woodpeckers and ring-necked parakeets

  • Mixed seeds for a variety of small birds

Suet balls are available from the RSPB and wildlife shops and are used in special hanging feeders. Good for tits and woodpeckers.

Photo from RSPB website

This is a general feeder that if kept filled with fresh unsalted peanuts should attract a variety of birds. It may also attract destructive squirrels. Bird species observed feeding on my own peanut feeder have included:

 

  • Blue tit
  • Great tit
  • Long-tailed tit
  • Greenfinch
  • Robin
  • Starling
  • Great spotted woodpecker
  • Green woodpecker
  • Ring-necked parakeet

This type of peanut feeder has an external cage to protect it from squirrels. The starling is an unusual visitor to peanut feeders.

Mixed seed feeder

This type of feeder usually consists of an acrylic (Perspex-like) tube with a metal top and bottom. They have at least two metal openings with accompanying perches. The mixed seeds have attracted a number of small birds in my garden including:

 

  • Blue tit
  • Great tit
  • House sparrow

A rather drowned-looking male house sparrow feeding on the mixed seed feeder.

Nyjer seed feeder

Like the mixed seed feeder, this type of feeder usually consists of an acrylic (Perspex-like) tube with a metal top and bottom. Small holes are drilled at strategic points with accompanying perches. The nyjer seeds have only attracted goldfinches but they are so worth it.

A goldfinch on a nyjer seed feeder

Coconut

Drill a hole on side of the coconut then place it on a mixing jug with the hole down and drill a hole in the top to allow air in. This milk can be frozen to be used in cooking at a later time.

Holding the coconut with a towel, firmly tap it with a meat mallet or hammer, turning as needed, until the shell starts to crack in half. Drill a hole in each half to feed wire or other material so they can be used as hanging feeders. When the flesh has gone use them as holders for suet or lard cakes.

Bird food for the ground

Bread

Birds like all types of bread but put it out with other foodstuffs. Bread doesn’t contain the necessary protein and fat birds need from their diet so it can act as an empty filler for their stomachs. It is best to moisten the bread especially in oil or lard. Dry chunks of bread will choke baby birds.

 

Fat

Fat, including suet, is good for tits, thrushes, wrens and woodpeckers. Don’t use polyunsaturated fats as they don't give the birds the high levels of energy they require.

 

Cheese

Mild grated cheese is a favourite with robins, blackbirds, song thrushes, dunnocks and wrens.

 

Potatoes

Baked, roast and mashed potatoes with added real fats are all suitable food for birds. Chips are rarely eaten.

 

Fruit

Cut up apples and other fruit, are popular with all thrushes, tits and starlings.

Dried fruits, such as raisins, sultanas and currants are particularly enjoyed by blackbirds, song thrushes and robins. Soak them during spring and summer.

 

NOTE: dogs and cats may react badly to dried fruits so don’t put them out areas where these animals can get to them.

 

Pastry

Pastry, cooked or uncooked, is excellent if it is made with real fats.

 

Important: Salted food

Salt is toxic to birds in high quantities and affects their nervous system. Never put out salted food onto the bird table, and never add salt to bird baths to keep water ice-free in the winter.

Notes

Don’t expect immediate results. It is best to start modestly by providing water and some food. Watch the results and understand the needs of your local birds. Take your time in choosing things like nut feeders, tables and nest boxes in that order based on the birds that begin to visit your garden.

 

Also it is no good for instance, in buying a nyjer seed feeder and kilograms of nyjer seed and expecting to see goldfinches. They can be quite localised birds and also may not visit all year round.

 

Remember that in providing food for birds you are potentially providing food for predators and vermin. Rats are everywhere

My name is Gary Flint. I'm author, photographer & illustrator for Postcards from Slough. If you wish to make any comments on the contents of the website please click on the ladybird below:

Gary Flint

08/03/1961 - 09/04/2019

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