* This post comes courtesy of Haith’s – Bird Food Specialists since 1937. If you want top quality bird seed and feeders from a British family run business, then Haith’s has all the products your garden birds need!*
So, you’ve decided to start feeding the birds visiting your outdoor space, (be it a garden, yard or balcony), and that’s a good thing. But there’s so many different types of bird food that you don’t know where to begin!
There’s seed for finches, soft food for robins, peanuts for tits and suet for starlings! The choice can make your head spin!
But did you also know there’s different qualities of food too? There’s the cheap supermarket bought versions which are full of dust and germinate once fallen on soil.
Then there’s SUPERCLEAN™!
Haith’s kindly offered me some of their Premium Wild Bird Food to sample. Or more importantly my visiting garden birds to sample! They sent me a bag of SUPERCLEAN™ seedand another bag of uncleaned seed. You can tell the difference straight away from the pictures taken by David below. The uncleaned seed had pieces of wood, dust and seed husks whereas the SUPERCLEAN™ looked polished and wholesome. Which seed would you prefer too feed your birds?
Why do Haith’s SUPERCLEAN™ their foods?
The reason Haith’s SUPERCLEAN™ their seed is due to studies by Professor John E Cooper DTVM FRCPath FSB CIBiol FRCVS, who found that birds who ate abrasive materials easily damaged their respiratory tracts. This damage in turn leads to increased vulnerability to illness and disease.
Haith’s kindly asked me to help spread their message about SUPERCLEAN™ and the importance of feeding good quality seed to wild birds. The below info-gram is helpful in explaining their process.
And if all that isn’t enough they have birder and conservationist extraordinaire Bill Oddie explaining the process.
And how did the SUPERCLEAN™ seed fare? On a freezing winter’s day, with snow forecast, the wild birds needed all the high energy seed they could get. I filmed many goldfinches on the feeders and a very cheeky pigeon helping himself to the seed on offer from the Multifeeder!!
This spring our yarden has once again been visited by dunnocks and robins. David had the inspired idea of putting my action camera in the ground cage feeder, in the hope of getting some footage of our little feathered friends. The trial was a success and we got some wonderful footage of a visiting dunnock (who seems a little poser) and a flighty robin.
Voted the UK’s National bird in 2015, and featured at number 7 in the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch 2017. The robin is recognised by many due to their red breast. Their sweet song can be heard all year round, not just in the spring. Both sexes look alike but their young are speckled brown. However cute they look they are very territorial and can fight to the death!
They are of similar size and have the same diet as the dunnock, hence chasing dunnocks from gardens.
I have to admit, the dunnock is one of my favourite birds. This small, quiet bird flickers about the undergrowth snatching at insects. The male’s short, yet cheery song is mostly heard of a spring but I have heard them singing come Christmastime. They are, like the robin, a ground feeder, eating insects and berries. They will eat seeds and suet come winter. Their nests are often parasitised by the cuckoo. They have colourful sex lives, most are polyandrous (one female to a number of males) or polygynous (one male to a number of females). This ensures that more than one mate will tend to the young.
I have been bowled over by how good the footage of the dunnock and the robin is. It is definitely a technique we will attempt again, perhaps on the hanging feeders!
The Wildlife Trust’s, 30 Days Wild 2016 dawned on a cloudy Wednesday, a hump day! I must admit it was difficult to find my ‘get up and go!’ However the sun made an appearance in the afternoon. It shone down hotly, as I slowly eased into this June by doing the usual pottering about the yarden (yard/garden)!
I participated in 30 Days Wild last year and thoroughly felt enlivened just by noticing the nature and wildlife around me.
I do try to help the wildlife in my area. It started off by putting out feeders for the birds. Then it progressed to planting for bees, butterflies and other insects. And this year David and I have built a small pond in the hope of bringing even more wildlife to the urban back yarden.
Day One: Wednesday.
Like last year I will blog about my 30 Days Wild in weekly installments. Thanks to Annie Irene from Trails&Tails who wrote about the many bloggers featured on The Wildlife Trusts, My Wild Life website. It is always good to read what other’s are getting up to this June, so if you are interested like I was, then follow the link and get reading!
One of the positives about reading other people’s experiences of the ‘wild’ is that you learn something new almost daily. Today, I learnt that a ‘weed’ I have ashamedly been pulling up out of the yarden (oops), is called Herb Robert or geranium robertianum. This wild flower is apparently edible and has many therapeutic properties.
Day Two: Thursday.
Today, David had a day off work. I suggested we go to a park in search of wildlife. We decided on visiting Liverpool’s Festival Gardens. We seem to make an annual pilgrimage here, but really should visit more often. It has lakes and woodland walks. It also features the restored Moon Wall and Pagodas that featured in the Garden Festival of the 1980’s!
On our leisurely walk, there were coots with chicks on the lake. Alongside the paths David and I spotted orchids and oxeye daises, and in the woodland we saw several butterflies, one was a Speckled Wood.
Speckled Wood Butterfly
We had a picnic alongside a stream, where under a strong beaming sun we sat listening to birdsong. I’ve identified (using British Garden Birds) the song of a chaffinch and maybe a wren, but is there a third song? Can you tell?
Day Three: Friday.
If you are struggling to find something ‘wild’ to do in June, then why not download the 30 Days Wild app for 101 random acts of wildness? I did and the first act suggested was something blue. So here is a picture of one of David’s rockery plants, lithodora ‘heavenly blue.’
Lithodora ‘heavenly blue’
Day Four: Saturday.
This March we planted some seed maris bard potatoes in the hope of growing our first vegetables. Today I noticed that the first flower has opened. I read that it will be soon be time to harvest these earlies! Isn’t the flower very strange looking? Well I thought so!
Day Five: Sunday.
Today was World Environment Day. Nicky on her blog Too Lazy to Weed, highlighted that it was also The National Garden Bioblitz weekend! So we spent the whole day in the yarden. I busied myself with counting the flora and fauna that we have in our small space. My fellow ‘spotter’ Artie was watching the bees and butterflies for a very different reason!!!
I counted about 60 plants. Of that number we have two trees and many shrubs, alpines and perennials. I used the Pl@ntNet app to ID some annuals and I was surprised at the results! One of the wildflower seedlings has roundish leaves so I used the app and found out it is a nasturtium!
Of the many insects that visited the yarden, a number of them were bees. Those identified were: common carder bees, a dark variant of the tree bumblebee, mason bees and white-tailed bumblebees. Thanks to UK Bees, Wasps and Ants Facebook page for help with ID-ing the bees. My skills are still not great! Below are five useful facts on each bee.
Common Carder Bee on Lithodora Blue
Tree Bumblebee (dark)
Common Carder Bee:
Found widely in the UK.
On the wing from March to November.
Nests above ground, such as cavities, hedges, plant litter or birds nests.
They gather moss or grass to cover their nests.
A social bee, can have a colony of up to 200 workers.
Came to the UK ten years ago, under own steam.
Not reported to have damaged native bumblebees
Prefers wide open flowers, i.e. daisies.
Nests in cavities or birds nests/boxes.
The males are sting-less.
One of the solitary bees, (there are no worker bees).
Nests in cavities, i.e. walls.
Uses mud to close their brood cells.
Are non aggressive.
Are just as good pollinators as honey bees.
Is another group of social bees.
Nests underground, i.e. rodent nests.
Has a short tongue, so prefers wide open flowers, such as daisies.
Are accomplished nectar ‘robbers’. By boring holes, means they don’t have to enter the flower.
On the wing from March to November.
David, Artie and I were also given a spectacular mating dance from two, small white butterflies. It was truly uplifting to see the two flutter delicately about on a hot summers day!
Day Six: Monday.
I don’t know if it is due to tiredness or the heat but I have been feeling kind of tired and low today. So it was going to be a lazy kind of day. After the midday heat had passed, Artie and I headed out into the yarden to sit quietly. I took out my library copy of Roger Deakin’s Waterlogged, (a tale of ‘wild’ swimming around the UK), and relaxed while the yarden hummed with bees. I am finding the book hard reading. I simply can’t get into it! I usually like history but the historical passages in the narrative just bore me. I will persevere though!
Day Seven: Tuesday.
I have always wanted to try my hand at writing a Haiku (traditional Japanese poetry.) You may have guessed that I can go on a bit while writing the blog, so you’d think a three lined poem would be easy for me! Wrong! I have been racking my brain trying to get syllables to come together. Below is my best attempt. What are your thoughts? Have you tried writing a Haiku?
Bees, buzz, drunk on nectar (5)
Flowers’ scent, enticingly (7)
Pollen baskets, full (5)
Summary: The problem with this years 30 Days Wild is that I have wanted to do everything all at once! And that is not plausible. I have felt like a daemon possessed! Panicking if I don’t do something to the extent I want. For the second week, I think I need to ‘chill’ a bit more and enjoy nature instead of forcing it!
I hope you will come with me on this next week of discovery?!
It was another WordPress blog: Sunshine and Celandines that alerted me to The Wildlife Trust‘s, 30 Days Wild, an initiative where you do something wild each day for the month of June. I quickly signed up, printed out the wall calender and got ready to immerse myself in ‘wildness’!
Actually, there wasn’t much immersing going on, what with it being a long week at work, but I did attempt to enjoy the nature around me – as I usually try and do! I live in quite a built up area of Liverpool so it is amazing that there is so much wildlife about!
Going to work, I could hear the ‘merry’songs of Blue Tits, Dunnocks, and Black Birds that populate my area, and while in the office I could hear the rich sounds of a Robin and the alarm calls of Great Tits. David said he saw, all too fleetingly a colourful Jay on his way home from work.
We watched the resident Blue Tit parents coming to and from our garden sourcing food for their brood. Last year I put up a bird feeder, (the second as mum kept the first in her garden next door!) I have feeders with sunflower seeds, fat balls and normal bird seed and in a Laurel bush I have a fat block. The Blue Tits like visiting the sunflower seeds and fat block, but they are so swift that I was unable to get video of them. The parents have become so dishevelled looking as they care for their young who constantly call out for food!
With the weather slowly warming up for a very short lived ‘heatwave.’ I managed to pop out into the garden to see how the plants were coming along. The Scabiosa is starting to flower and has many heads on it and the Honeysuckle, which is a great grower is covered in flowers.
Today was the ‘hottest day of the year,’ for the NW of England! It was warm but not too warm and the sun lasted up until 5pm when a bank of cloud ruined any plans of a BBQ. It was my ‘short’ day at work, ‘thankfully,’ and I managed to rush home to spend at least an hour in the garden.
Something Blue – sky blue
En route home I popped into Wilkinsons for David who only wanted grit for the indoor aviary but I ended up spending £18! I bought flower seeds in the hope they will grow into Teasels for the visiting Goldfinches and also dried mealworms for the Blue Tit parents, (though they have not seen them as yet!)
I enjoyed the hour outside. I felt the sun’s heat prickling my sunscreen covered arms and sipped cava while Artie basked in the shade and hunted flies. As silhouette’s of the visiting Swallows could be seen flitting overhead, I took pictures of the insects visiting my Wallflower. A Tree Bumblebee, Mason Bees and a beautiful Golden Mint Moth!
I discovered today that my Cotoneaster has little white flowers on it! (I planted it last year and it’s taken a year to become established.) I am hopeful that the flowers will become pollinated and that it will develop berries! Fingers crossed.
The warmer weather seems to have been but a dream as it was cold and windy today. David and I, after doing the ‘weekly shop’ went to Bents garden Centre. I was in search of Borage and Alliums and David wanted a bird box. I came home disappointed, I’ll have to make do with seed Borage and try and grow it myself, but David managed to get his bird box and at £2.99 it was a bargain! However, I did not leave empty handed, I got myself a bee log which I hope will be shelter for solitary bees like the Mason Bee! I hope it will be more of a success than the still vacant Insect House!
The journey home took us along the East Lancs Road, which cuts through arable fields. Alongside the road we saw not one, but three birds of prey hunting. I identified them as being Red Kites! Here’s a picture from David’s Flickr page of Red Kites from Gauntlet Birds of Prey in 2011!
Today we put up the bird box and bee log in anticipation of future visitors!
All day we have been aware of a Blue Tit fledgling sitting nervously in the Laurel bush. It’s parents keeps visiting periodically so it has not been abandoned. He is concealed by the leaves and seems content.
I also noted that I had up to at least five bees in my garden all enjoying the Wallflower, Cat Mint and Honeysuckle and saw my first baby Goldfinch of the season but could not get footage of him!
It’s been a busy week for the nature in my area. I don’t know how I am going to better the sightings I have already seen, but here’s to week two of being ‘wild’! 😀
On Friday 22nd March it snowed for most of the day! I remember well this time last year, we were sitting in the garden enjoying the warm sun! What a difference a year makes!
I had finished work at the university for the three week Easter break and spent the day looking at the falling snow drift past my window and at the visiting garden birds to my feeders. At one stage there were 25! Goldfinches sitting in the surrounding trees. Blue Tits and Magpies visited for the home made bread we had left out the day before.
Below find video compilation I made of the visiting birds this cold ‘spring’ day.
After spending all day yesterday in anticipation of the coming snow, Liverpool was sadly overshot and all we received as precipitation was frozen ice that made icicles and froze David’s car as we went shopping. He wasn’t impressed when he had to scrape the car twice lol
Yesterday I bought a washing line, it was only a pound so didn’t break the bank. David and I wound it around my ground cage defender and today (Sunday) it looks like it is deterring the Pigeons who are looking at the cage and you can tell from their behaviour that they are thinking ‘I was able to get in yesterday, but it looks a bit smaller today.’ 🙂
I also bought a fat block and a half filled coconut yesterday, an impulsive buy, but the Starlings love the fat blocks 🙂
Last night, David and I tried our hand at making a curry from scratch. We made a Jalfrezi, but with a tin of tomatoes in it, it tasted more of tomatoes and needed more spices, my opinion anyway!
Today, I caught sight of the Dunnock, he had survived the cold of last week and he was happily sitting in the adjusted cage feeder, safely eating all he wanted 🙂 Later on he was seen again, sitting, singing his sweet song in our big tree 🙂 I was happy to see him, and David thought I was crazy as I jumped around the room happily! 🙂
Again, I have seen many or the same Blue Tit couple (s), they are liking the black Sunflower seeds, and I was surprised to see the Robin eating from a fat-ball feeder!
I probably won’t see many birds tomorrow as I have a long day at work, not looking forward to it, I’d rather be sitting with my head out of the window looking at the birds go ‘wild’ for the food I have left out for them. 🙂