I’m a stay-at-home ‘twitcher’ - liking nothing better than settling down in a comfy seat, with a good view of the garden, to take a mental note of the comings and goings of a wide range of birds. From autumn to spring, I can track the seasons as migrants pass through. During the autumn, blackcaps and other birds flood in from Europe to beat the deep freeze, while insect eaters, such as martins and swallows, are flying south to seek out warmer climes. Even in the UK, blackbirds from the Eastern counties go west, while others come into replace them from the near continent. Watch out for some surprises, too, because global warming has meant that more exotic European species of birds are visiting. Like all pilgrims, they’re on the look-out for a safe place to stop over where they can get a hearty breakfast and a drop to drink. Your garden can be the perfect oasis.
Ways to encourage birds to stay
What to plant Growing the right plants in your garden will go a long way to making it seem attractive to garden birds. Concentrate on flowers, seeds and berries. Choose late-flowering plants that are loved by insects - a meal-ticket for insect-eaters, so that they can get their fill before migrating south. Add in a scattering of plants for seed-eaters, such as greenfinches and goldfinches, as well as berrying plants that provide food for a wide range of resident and visiting birds, allowing them to pile on fat reserves in readiness for winter. If you are cunning, you can get the same plants to do more than one job. Native shrubs and trees are best. In a small garden, you could incorporate native hawthorn or hazel in a hedge – leaving trimming to late winter once the berries have been eaten, but before nesting gets underway. Choose a variety of berrying shrubs to provide food for the longest period – berberis, cotoneaster, pyracantha and viburnum are among the most popular. See ‘Berried treasure’ for more ideas.