Wildlife Watch - with Kate Humble

Siskin, Carduelis spinus: adult male, garden bird on feeder, England. May 2003.\n\n
Siskin, Carduelis spinus: adult male, garden bird on feeder, England. May 2003.\n\n

Hopefully you saw lots of interesting birds for the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch at the end of last month. The coldest December on record meant that lots of unusual birds were spotted, as less common birds had already had 3-4 weeks to find food left out by concerned householders. If you did take part, thank you very much, and don’t forget to submit your results when you have a moment.

Despite the early cold snap, garden birds aren’t out of the woods yet. There will be very little natural food around for birds for a while and it’s even more important now to keep up your feeding as there is the constant threat of another dip in temperatures and many birds will barely have survived the first one. The old apples I started leaving out were a godsend for the starlings, blackbirds and other thrushes in my garden. Some birds have also been reported eating bananas on RSPB nature reserves so you could try them too if you have some spares in your fruit bowl!

Keep an eye out for siskins and look closely at any chaffinches feeding on the ground as you may be lucky enough to see a brambling among them this month too. If you have birch or alder trees in or near your garden, these also attract siskins, as well as redpolls and goldfinches which come to feed on the seeds.

Birds are starting to sing and establish breeding territories now. It’s not too late to put up a nest box this month and if you do, try to target birds such as house sparrows and starlings, which really need help. February is also a good time to trim and mulch your hedges and finish digging your vegetable patches and the elbow grease will help blow off any leftover winter cobwebs!

Enjoy the onset of Spring!