Singing for their supper

PUBLISHED: 17:35 16 June 2009 | UPDATED: 15:03 20 February 2013

Long-tailed Tit

Long-tailed Tit

Make your garden a bird-friendly place and you'll be amazed at the different visitors who call in.

Make your garden a bird-friendly place and you'll be amazed at the different visitors who call in.

As Alexander Pope once said, "Hear how the birds, on ev'ry blooming spray, With joyous musick wake the dawning day." What a wonderful feeling it is to be tugged slowly from the depths of slumber by the deliriously cheerful dawn chorus - the birds are quite literally full of the joys of spring and it's contagious!

With winter now becoming an almost distant memory, and the first glimpses of the spring flowering bulbs now peeping through, now is the time to turn your garden into a sanctuary for our feathered friends.

Watching and listening to the birds is such a rewarding and relaxing experience and it is becoming an increasingly popular pastime. For those of you already fortunate enough to have regular garden visitors, their flying acrobatics and cheerful songs are a constant source of joy. I love spotting different visitors to my garden and whilst I am always pleased to see my regulars, the blue tits, great tits and the glorious goldfinches, I was thrilled when I spotted two extra-special guests to my garden this week - a pair of long-tailed tits. With its distinctive, graduated tail and broad black stripe over its crown down to its nape, the long-tailed tit is one of our resident species and what a little darling it is!

What can you do to attract the birds to your garden? There is a vast array of bird species who visit our gardens and there's no great mystery to attracting them. All you need to get started is a seed feeder or bird table and some high energy foods.

With natural food sources for the birds at their lowest at this time of year, supplementary feeding is particularly important for the birds. Try offering a variety of high energy seeds, aflatoxin-free oil rich peanuts, or nutritious peanut cakes. There are plenty of feeders and bird tables to choose from - if you have squirrels in your garden you may want to look for feeders with high squirrel defence ratings. Always ensure that there is a clean, regular supply of water for the birds too - not only to drink but to keep their plumage in tip top condition.

If you want to embark on this pastime seriously, you may want to invest in a good bird guide, perhaps a bird song CD and even a couple of nest boxes. And it doesn't end there...

Ardent gardeners can also invest in a variety of trees, shrubs and flowers to further entice the birds into their garden. These will provide an important food source for insects which in turn will help to feed the birds.

Recommended trees include Mountain ash, silver birch, hawthorn, hazel and wild cherry. You could also include a boundary hedge feature in your garden - a cultivated prunus shrub is ideal for nesting birds as is a holly. Consider planting climbing hydrangeas, honeysuckle or various forms of clematis which will provide good cover for walls and fences.

Wildflowers will also attract the birds - particularly noteworthy is the sunflower. As well as presenting a show of glimmering gold in your garden, once the flowers have wilted greenfinches and goldfinches will swoop to devour the veritable banquet of seed heads. You can leave the empty seed heads over winter - as birds such as the wren, the long-tailed tit and blue tit love picking over these foraging for any small invertebrates that may be hiding in the remains.

With your wildlife-friendly garden planned and your feeders in place, (ideally just a short distance from cover so the bird feel safe feeding there) sit back, relax and wait for the birds to arrive. Birds you may see during spring will include our resident species such as finches, thrushes and sparrows. Summer visitors will also be arriving - look out for the willow warbler and whitethroat.

For all your bird food, feeding accessories and wildlife advice, contact CJ WildBird Foods Ltd,, freephone 0800 731 2820

Top bird feeding tips:

Put your feeders close enough to cover so the birds can dash to safety if threatened.

Use good quality feeders, which will survive squirrel attention.

Buy the best seed you can, the birds WILL tell the difference and will keep coming back for more, buy in bulk to save money.

Keep feeders topped up as the birds will come to rely on them particularly in the winter months. Only put out as much as they will take in a couple of days though and clean feeders regularly.

Provide clean fresh water and keep bird baths unfrozen by adding warm water, not anti-freeze products!

The more types of food and ways of feeding you can manage the more species you will attract. Put food on a table, in feeders and under bushes to reach the shier birds.

If squirrels are eating all of the seed, consider buying a feeder with an outer cage most small birds will pass through these easily.

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