I love my garden and even though I live in a row of terraced houses I manage to have a garden full of trees, shrubs and rose bushes. In spring and summer the birds are out and about roosting in my lilac tree and darting in and out of the bushes. When autumn comes around there is still plenty of activity going on though there's more competition for the best perches and the best food. I do feed the wild birds for most of the year but by November I start adding fat balls to my bird feeding station.
What Choices are there?
Any reputable garden center or B&Q store will have a range of birdhouses, feeders and combinations of both. While the posh ones might look the best I prefer something neat, simple and sturdy. I have a very tall conifer in my garden and the birds perch there away from the worst of the weather. Last year was really bad for my part of South Wales since we aren't used to lots of snow and below freezing temperatures. I was using an old feeder that was getting wonky and I was also attracting too many wood pigeons. I needed something quick and a look online gave me a good choice of Tom Chambers's varieties.
The one I ended up choosing was The Tom Chambers handcrafted bird care Fat Ball Station. I liked the neat practical design and the tall (6 feet) metal pole that makes up the main part of the feeder. This comes in a box measuring four feet and the pole comes in two parts that attach together to make the whole. The bottom part has a sharp stake that slides into the earth quite easily without needing any base or cementing into place. I have put some stones around it when its windy but haven't really needed them.
The top part has an intricate steel design that looks good since it's like a Celtic spiral with a ball at the top. Branching out from the pole is three sets of two curled prongs that are set in stages so there is plenty of room between the pairs for birds to land. Each curls around to enable various kinds of feed to be hung but the end curls inwards to avoid injury. This looks decorative but is also practical. It's really meant for fat balls, which I'll get to in a moment. But since you can hang all kinds of things from the hooks you don't have to stay with fat balls. I've used mine with bacon rinds, nets of nuts and leftover bits of fat, vegetable peelings, fruit and even toast. You can even hang mealworms if you have the temperament for it. (I don't).
This station has been designed for fat balls which are round balls shaped with a mixture of cereals, fats and essential oils depending on the make you buy and hang inside a thin net that has the correct texture and spaced holes to stop a bird from getting caught in the weave. There are so many fat balls on sale that it's worth reading a separate review if you intend to attract all kinds of birds. I buy mine in a large bucket from Wilkinson's at £5 for a bucket containing about 95 balls.
Most wild birds need fat in their diet especially in winter so don't think you're giving them the dregs-you are treating them! These are a healthy and energy boosting food, which should be moist enough to peck at. Other foods are these; -
Bacon Rind (chopped)
Add bowls of water nearby, as birds need water as well.
Try to place the station in an open space to prevent predators attacking the birds. Obviously its best not to put it in place of howling winds but small birds can soon get away from cats and larger birds quickly if they can move in time. You will get some predators in particular from Sparrowhawks, but this is a natural culling of weaker birds and its best not to interfere. The flight of a Sparrowhawk is incredibly swift and its for that reason that bird tables are not so favored with me.
There have been some grumbles about other visitors such as squirrels, foxes hedgehogs and even the odd rat. But where there are birds there are cats and they are fierce hunters.
Another thing to avoid is contamination so try and keep your feeding station replenished often with new food and clear away any debris underneath as this can spread disease in birds. It need not be a chore, as most food will be snapped up quickly.
If your garden is large or you want to attract lots of different birds then a few stations are a cheap way of doing this. I paid about £10.99 for mine last year and Amazon are selling it for £9.99. Some garden centers will sell it cheaper if it's a mild autumn. I'd advise to buy now before winter sets in. Then get out your binoculars and/or a digital camera and wait for some astonishing pictures. You might even get your photo on next year's Countryfile calendar!
Thanks for reading.