Feed the Birds Day at the Lock Keepers Cottage last Sunday was a huge success and great fun - and the weather was a big part of it of course.
Here's a few interesting things I learned:
When the forecast says rain and wind, don't always believe it.
Hundreds of early birds are out and about at 11am on a Sunday morning. When you have dogs, children or yourself to exercise, the Sunday papers can wait.
Making bird cakes is a doddle - and so cheap and easy. And you can even do it outdoors in the cold as our hardy crew of RSPB staff and volunteers proved. We all felt like TV chefs doing their open air bit as we made dozens of bird cakes. Here's how: squish together some store bought suet and a mix of bird seed, porridge oats, bread crumbs, leftover muesli, sunflower seeds... Even in the cold the suet will go soft. About 1/2 to 2/3 seed mix to suet. Then pack it around small pine cones pushing the mixture well down into the cone. The end result should be plum sized. Tie a string around the cone either before or after you have made the cake and hang from a branch. Or you can leave off the string and stuff the cake into a bare branched hedge. Small birds such as bluetits like to perch on the cake and swing as they feed.
Suet is great for moisturising the hands and helps keep them warm in the cold weather. But you will also attract every small dog in the LVRP!
Kids are expert bird cake makers - must be the small hands.
And last but not least - the Park is now producing a colourful quarterly newsletter full of the latest updates on Laganscape developments. (and gorgeous photos). Laganscape is the multi-million pound programme bringing people, partners and communities together to make the most of the Park's wealth of historicial and natural features. From Lisburn down to Stranmillis there is an amazing amount in the works; heritage and environmental restoration, conservation and research projects, which will make the Lagan Valley even more of an oasis!
Volunteers are an important part of the programme - I had no idea how much they do until I read the newsletter and talked to a few last Sunday. They really enjoy it, not only for the diversity of projects (one week they are bashing balsams, the next week gathering seeds or surveying bats after dark using sonar technology), but the social aspects.
Pick up your free copy of Laganscape next time you are at the Lock Keeper's Cottage.
Feed the Birds Day at the Park was such a success, the RSPB is thinking of doing another! In the meantime, if you need to buy bird food, check out the new RSPB stall, every Saturday from now until Christmas in St. George's Market. Not only food but loads of wonderful gift ideas and cards too.
Please sir, can I have more?
Don't forget! Winter time is feeding time to keep the birds fat and happy through the long cold winter...and adding a bit of life, song and company to your garden too!
Setting up your own Bird Cafe can be easy....and free too! To learn how: wing it to the RSPB Feed The Birds fun day at the Lagan Valley Regional Park Lock Keepers Cottage, Sunday November 14th from 11am to 3pm. It's free and everyone is welcome - parents and fledglings too.
Get a grip! Starling swings for his supper
Last year, many Arctic visitors who don't normally travel to Northern Ireland in such large numbers and certainly don't venture into gardens, were attracted by the food put out by people. All making the bird viewing even more interesting...about the only good thing winter 2010 did bring!!
Fieldfare (above) and waxwing (below) are both members of the thrush family, not usually resident in these parts.
So fill your feeders and see what exotic species you might attract.
For information about the Feed the Birds Fun Day visit: www.laganvalley.co.uk. No booking required.
Photos provided by Lagan Valley Regional Park
'Come dine with me!' Chubby chaffinch.
There’s nothing like looking out your window on a gloomy winter’s
day and being cheered by lots of lively birds munching merrily on a
smorgasbord of seeds, nuts and leftovers. Just put out foods birds like and they’ll come!
At this time of year, feeding the birds is vital. Without
help from garden feeders, many species may not make it through the winter. Hundreds of small birds only survived last
year thanks to people putting out food. We’re not just serving up a few nuts
and seeds – we’re saving tiny lives.
It’s simple and costs nothing once you know how. I’ve included a few basic tips in this
blog, but for the full story... the RSPB has cooked up a Feed The Birds fun day
at the Lagan Valley Regional Park Lock Keepers Cottage, Sunday November 14th
from 11am to 3pm.
Remember this? No picnic for birds!
Discover the fascinating world of garden birds and their
favourite foods, plus surprising facts:
-the wide variety you can attract, common and unusual birds,
and seasonal visitors from the Arctic
-dining preferences – table, ground or hanging feeder?
-safe places in your garden to put feeders.
-the ideal menu- covers more types of food than you ever
throw out last night’s rice when someone cute and fluffy will gobble it up?
-making your own feeders from water bottles – takes a minute
and costs nothing.
-making your own bird cakes. Again, a doddle.
Fast foods for birds Birdseed: Find good quality mixes for wild birds at the supermarket, garden centre, pet
shop or from the RSPB. Smaller
seeds are better for smaller birds. Sunflower seeds, pin head oats, raw oats, unsalted nuts like peanuts, bird balls, food bars and bird cakes. Birds need fat to keep warm so these are great sources, Remove the nylon mesh from bought birdballs. We may not be crazy about leftovers, but birds love our
dry oatmeal, the muesli at the bottom of the box that has lost its crunch Dried and fresh fruit such as currants and raisins, bits of apple, pear
or banana, even if they are
bruised or going off a bit. Chopped lettuce, peas and corn Pastry
and mild grated cheese for fat. Nuts and seeds. White
bread is not nutritious. Put out brown bread or even better, seeded bread.
Soaked in water or crumbled into tiny pieces makes it easy to eat. However bread alone is not a complete
diet. Cooked rice without salt. Fat
from unsalted meat Potatoes- baked and opened up, roast and mashed
Guess who's coming to dinner?
Unhealthy and even deadly
Anything loaded with sugar, salt or artificial colours and
flavours. AND: chips, mixes with big hard lumps or dried beans and peas - difficult to eat and digest. ALSO any fat that has been used in cooking, especially meat, margarine and vegetable oils, hard dog biscuits. Milk is poisonous. AVOID: dried coconut, cooked porridge. Never put out mouldy food.
Turn a water bottle into a feeder - Don’t
throw out drink bottles, when it only takes a minute to give them a new use. AND make a cake - Birds' favourite treat too. (no cooking involved) For instructions for both, go to: http://www.rspb.org.uk/youth/makeanddo/index.asp
Also worth knowing Birds can be fussy about where they feed. Some only feed from the ground. Others only from bird tables. And some prefer to eat from feeders or
feed balls hung in the trees.
Clean feeders regularly with warm water and washing up
liquid and remove uneaten food quickly.
Dirty feeding places can spread disease.
Don’t put out large amounts of food. It can get wet and
mouldy and attract animals you don’t want!
"Happy day! Leftovers again!"
Feeding – it’s a
family thing The best thing about feeding birds, aside from the pleasure
of watching and the satisfaction of helping birds weather tough times – it’s an
activity the whole family can enjoy. In fact your kids could run your bird
cafe. And who says you
have to have a garden? A few
feeders on a balcony or patio can be a regular haunt for peckish diners flying
in for a nibble.
For further feeding facts, go to www.rspb.org.uk, or pick up
a leaflet at the Lock Keepers Cottage or the RSPB Headquarters in Belvoir
Park. The RSPB shop stocks feeders
of all types, fat cakes and yummy seed and nut mixes birds can’t resist. While you’re there, pick up a nest box
or two. Your flighty friends will
be so well fed, they’ll want to stick around and breed come spring.
And for more details on Feed The Birds Day at Lagan Valley Regional Park, go to www.laganvalley.co.uk
Don’t just fill your ‘bakes’....fill theirs too!
(photos courtesy of Lagan Valley Regional Park)