This week we brought you the story of Sherwood Forest’s newest baby birds. Here are the top five tips for turning your garden into a veritable bird paradise, from some of the most knowledgeable experts around: ecologist and seabird authority Tim Morley, senior conversation ranger at Sherwood Forest Kev Gustard, and educational ranger at Sherwood Forest Mike Hill.
1. Make it homely
Bird tables, feeding stations and nest boxes will very quickly make a difference to the amount of feathered wildlife you spot in your garden. There are models of all shapes and sizes to suit every style of garden – hanging, wall mounted, free standing… There are even models designed to stop squirrels stealing your bird feed!
2. …But be careful what you feed them
Some foods that are great for birds at any other time of year can be dangerous during spring/early summer when there are babies around. Things such as peanuts and dried mealworms are too large and sharp for babies, but parent birds may try to feed them anyway.
The best thing, if you can source them, is live mealworms (available online and from some large pet stores). But if you only have the dried stuff, just soak them in water for a while before you put them out.
Never put bread out for birds – it has zero nutrients but fills them up and discourages them from eating other things. It’s basically bird junk food!
3. Leave the pruning until autumn
Did you know it’s illegal to intentionally destroy a bird’s nest? It’s an offence under Section 1 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act of 1981.
The RSPCB recommend not cutting or trimming hedges from March until August – farmers are forbidden from cutting theirs until autumn. If you absolutely can’t avoid it, check for nests first and leave them well alone if you spot them.
4. Go wild
We say this a lot, but it really is the best thing you can do in your own garden to encourage a thriving, healthy habitat for everything from birds to bugs. Let part of your garden – or the whole thing! – be wild.
Avoid paving and decking wherever possible – it’s one of the biggest threats to our native garden species. There are better alternatives, but if you must deck, simply placing it six inches above the ground will make space for hedgehogs and helpful insects underneath.
5. Check please!
Birds will nest anywhere. Not just in trees or bushes. Check for nests before you disrupt, cut down or move things. Kev and his team of rangers at Sherwood Forest have found nests in bin bays, on shelves in sheds or garages, on caravan hitches. They even had a tractor on the Village that couldn’t be used for weeks because a bird had nested under the bonnet!
Read more about the baby birds hatching at Sherwood Forest.