With the start of Spring, many of us will be thinking about how to make the most of our green space. Award winning garden designer, TV and radio presenter, Toby Buckland wants us to think about we can create a refuge for birds in our gardens too. Toby is backing a national campaign by charity SongBird Survival based on their scientific research into how gardeners can help birds thrive through wildlife-friendly gardening. More than half of our UK songbirds are threatened or already in decline. Numbers have fallen 50% in 50 years.
TOBY'S TEN TOP TIPS FOR ENCOURAGING BIRDS TO YOUR GARDEN THIS SPRING:
1. Create a water source: Even a simple bird bath can make a big difference. Clean and change its water regularly. If you have room, a small pond can help provide snails and insects, which are ideal food for birds.
2. Be natural and ditch the pesticides: Recent research, funded by SongBird Survival from the University of Sussex, found that bird populations in gardens plummeted by up to 40 percent where pesticides were present. Favourite species like the house sparrow, chaffinch, great tit and blackbird vanish in huge numbers where chemical weedkillers and slug pellets are used. Try companion planting – planting certain plant combinations to help keep pests down, or natural remedies. Dried seaweed is a good choice for deterring slugs as it is high in salt, or you can make some good old-fashioned garlic spray to deter aphids.
3. Give shelter: All of our wildlife needs somewhere they can be safe. You can provide nest boxes, bee hotels, or even arrange a pile of fallen leaves, twigs and branches as a makeshift shelter for birds, small mammals and insects.
4. Help birds nest: Birds are always on the hunt for nesting materials in springtime. Why not plant some long grasses like feather reed grass, moor grass or elephant grass to help them out? Alternatively, leave grass and leaf clippings to one side for birds to take to pad out their nests.
5. Enjoy lots of flowers: Aim to have flowers in your garden for as many months of the year as possible for bees, especially early in the year when queens awake from hibernation. Pulmonaria and viola are great for this.
6. Plant natural food: Select plants that flower and fruit that birds love to eat, and you can provide food year-round. Great natural food choices include common elder, rowan, and guelder rose. When it comes to Winter, you can also help by placing a feeder in your garden at regular times, this means birds don’t have to spend lots of extra energy finding food. It can help birds get through the worst of cold snaps.
7. Think about your cats: If you have cats, you can protect birds by using hanging feeders, away from any perches that cats may pounce from. Try to locate feeders as far away as possible from any nest boxes, to stop a predator from finding the location of their chicks or eggs. SongBird Survival research has also found that playing with your cat just five minutes a day can reduce their hunting.
8. Keep feeders and bird baths clean: Keeping any feeders or bird baths clean and refreshed regularly is top priority to stop disease spreading.
9. Be low maintenance: Why not try leaving your lawn long in your garden to encourage pollinators? No Mow May encourages you to leave your lawnmower in the shed all month so you can see your lawns spring to life with flowers, bees and other pollinators. Or could you reduce the amount of pruning in your garden? By letting seedheads develop, you provide food in the Autumn and Winter months for birds.
10. Make the most of even a small space: Creative use of garden space can have great results for the look of your garden and our ecosystem. For those who have small spaces, or a balcony, you can still attract wildlife by providing potted plants, climbers, feeders and small shelters.
SongBird Survival have a one stop shop for bird friendly gardening tips, whether you are a beginner or pro. Their tips, advice and how to guides make it easy for you to improve your garden in no time, no matter its size or location. The charity also has educational resources for children to encourage their love of nature. Visit www.songbird-survival.org.uk to make a promise to help birds and for free downloads and free gardening tips each month by email.
Commenting on how gardeners can help, Toby said: “Wildlife friendly gardens don't have to be boring or informal. You can make your garden both a safe haven for birds and a space that you love spending time in. This Spring, make some small changes that could see you enjoying many more birds to your garden this year and protecting our beautiful wildlife”.
Susan Morgan, SongBird Survival’s CEO added: “These past few years more than ever, many of us have taken solace in our gardens and outdoor space, with a much greater appreciation of the joy the dawn chorus can bring. With research showcasing the drastic declines of insect life and songbirds in our country, it is our job to open our gardens to wildlife and invite them in. Whatever the size of your outdoor space, whatever your skill in gardening, you can make a difference.”
Gardens cover an area bigger than all of our national parks combined. 87% of British homes have gardens, equalling around 22.7 million outdoor spaces. This covers an area of 2.5 times the size of London. The natural habitat for songbirds is being eroded and gardens can be a refuge to help save threatened UK songbirds.
Tune in for Toby’s regular gardening advice on BBC Radio Devon, every Sunday at 10am.
NOTES TO EDITORS:
SongBird Survival is the only charity in the UK dedicated solely to halting and reversing the alarming population decline of songbirds and other small birds. It does this by supporting research carried out by experts at top universities and conservation organisations in the UK into the cause of the decline and promoting the solutions. More information is available at: https://www.songbird-survival.org.uk/
SongBird Survival will launch its campaign to share tips, advice and photos from 20th March on social media with #GardensforBirds and #thinkbirds at:
SongBird Survival can provide media outlets with further expert advice on helping birds in gardens and spokespeople are available for interview.
The charity will be working with gardening influencers on social media to share their reflections on how to create songbird-friendly gardens.
SongBird Survival provide seasonal advice to help people help birds at home throughout the year. This includes activities to mark International Dawn Chorus Day on Sunday 7th May 2023. The charity also runs the popular National Robin Day on 21st December, which raises awareness of how to help birds during the Winter.
For all enquiries, including interview requests and his-res images, please contact:
Helen Deakin: Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Phone: 07501 427418
Susan Morgan: Email: Susan@songbird-survival.org.uk
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