Well it's that time of year again, when the wind turns icy and the air chills you to the bone. Or not, for here in the UK it has been remarkably mild in most areas. However, now is the perfect time to step up your feeding routine so the birds have plenty to see them through the colder winter months.
My bird table is getting quite a bit of activity already, though if you are new to putting food out it may take a few days for the word to get around and for the local birds to visit you. This is why it's so important to get a routine going now and stick to it throughout the winter and into the spring in particular. By putting food out while it's mild, it means that when the weather turns nasty and their supply of berries and insects gets low, they know exactly where to go to get that essential high-calorie food.
Your best bet is to have a variety of food available, as different species prefer different foods. You can get really cheap seed and peanut feeders from pet shops and supermarkets, and the food is usually quite cheap too. If you want to, there are a whole host of different seeds you can put out. Most stores will have a good all purpose bird seed mix, which will attract the basic garden varieties such as thrushes, robins, tits and sparrows. You can also put out peanuts, but be sure to get them from a reputable supplier - raiding the pub for salted or dry roasted peanuts is not the idea here! Peanuts can be high in a natural toxin, so be sure to only buy ones labelled for bird consumption.
Another good source of food is to provide fat balls with different treats in them. You can buy these from shops and either put them into specific dispensers or make them yourself. You can use either melted lard or suet, and using roughly one third fat to two thirds mixture you can taylor them to what appears locally. You can put dried fruit in them, or how about seeds, cheese, or oatmeal? You can find good advice from places like the RSPB website, but it's really easy to make them.
First, melt your fat.
Then stir in your bird food.
Then spoon it into a suitable container, such as a coconut shell or an empty yogurt pot
and leave it in the fridge to set. Simple!
Have fun, and remember that once you leave food out, the birds will come to rely on it really quickly, so keep it up. Oh, and remember to provide clean water too.