Monday, 14 September 2015

Attracting Birds

We don't have any crows to scare.  In fact, I want to attract birds, not frighten them away!  Birds scratch up the ground (tilling) in search of worms and bugs and eat a lot of pesky insects (pest control).  I recently made a Garden Sprite (note, not scarecrow), to be company for our faithful Josephine (another Garden Sprite).  The newcomer's name is Aurora.  She was constructed in the garden shed, one cold end-of-Winter's day, from off-cut scraps of Cedar shutters.  I simply used the pieces in the lengths they were found, so she has a child-like appearance.

Aurora, the Garden Sprite
Aurora's eyes are 2 old wooden door knobs, the nose; a circular cut-out I drilled to make a hole in a bird nesting box, and the mouth a strip of old plaited leather belt (whose buckle broke).  I have had a small piece of mirror lying around the shed for ages, so it was a good project to use it on - it gives the appearance of a hole in the center of her stomach!  My mother's old broken jandal soles have become her feet.  (Sadly, yes, I do horde lots of things for that one day, when I might use it!!)

Coming back to attracting birds to the garden, they need food, water and shelter and here are some ways to achieve that:
  • Improve the backyard habitat and create a safe oasis for birds to visit and live.
  • As Spring is on our doorstep, add a few nesting boxes around the garden, on a fence or tree, where cats cannot get to them.  Ones that open can be cleaned out before Spring, each year, to make way for a new family.
  • A Bird Supermarket is simply a collection of nesting materials provided for them to forage and use in the building of nests - human hair, straw, string, wool, strips of fabric etc.

3 different nesting boxes and a Bird Supermarket on the right.

The Bird Supermarket need not be so specific, just a collection of natural nesting materials for easy bird access.  This one is made from bits of wood, old perspex pieces and "landing" perches.

  • Birds need access to water.  Have several drinking sources around the garden for them on a hot day.  If the container is flat, it offers a wonderful opportunity for them to have a quick bath on a hot day.  Water needs to be changed regularly, to ensure it is clean and safe.
  • Shrubs and trees - birds need places to hide, to nest and to forage in - we planted kowhai trees specifically to attract the mighty-beautiful tui.  If you grow fruit, then you may need to bag your growing fruit (I have sewn individual little bags which I peg around near-ripening fruit) or else you will be growing fruit only for the birds and none for yourself.  I leave the fruit at the top which I cannot reach, for the hungry little birds to eat.  Fair share for us and for them.

This water source is good for a drink, not a bath.
  • Birds need not be fed over the summer months as there is plenty to scavenge in the garden, however, in the colder months, I like to feed them.  Scraps of bread or rice get thrown out on the grass and soon attract hordes of wax-eyes and sparrows.  I have been making Seed Cups lately (melt coconut oil and mix in wild bird seed, pour into a cup and hang in the tree) and enjoying the Feeding Frenzy that results.
Seed Cups

My seed cups last about a week as the birds get to know about them!
  • Birds need a cat-free garden, or like ours, a Super Lazy Cat, who allows them to creep right up on her while she sleeps, and sneak her remaining food right out of her bowl!  From a kitten, we have discouraged her from catching birds (yes, it can be done!).
Our old birdbath (needing a good scrub and filling up with fresh water).

Buddha Head Bath is always a good drinking hole for birds as well as the cat!!  
I sometimes used to curse the birds in our garden, as I would find them scratching up new seedlings, or pecking every ripening fruit or messing up my newly laid out pathways, but I have learned to live alongside them.  I have a few little blackbirds that forage for worms within my grasp, while weeding.  They have come to know and trust us.  A few thrushes living in our garden are wonderful garden helpers - we hear them pounding the snails they find, on our stepping stones and it makes us smile, they are working hard at saving our crops from snails!  When I plant new seedlings, I have to put collars around them (plastic bottles or cans) to stop hungry little birdies from scratching at their roots - but these extra measures just ensure that we all stay happy, and in harmony with one another!  The joy of seeing them in the garden, and the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages. 

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