Tuesday, 16 November 2010

I've got a lovely bunch of... bird feeders ?

It's the time of year when our feathered friends may be having a little trouble finding a good meal, so why not help them out a bit ?

Just lately our youngest has developed a taste for coconuts, or rather coconut milk, it started when I got a couple from the supermarket so I could use the shells, it's amusing to watch her sitting on the sofa with a straw sticking out of a coconut with out a care in the world, it's what's great about having kids.

So onwards, I got the coconuts to use the shells for making bird feeders, not original I know, but as it gets colder we like to help the birds out a little, we don't feed them everyday but we do try and make sure they can at least get a meal every few days.

I built a bird table a few years ago and up until this year it was pretty much all we used, we would just make up some food and lay it out on the table, with a bag of peanuts hanging on one side and a seed feeder on the other, so as to give a mixture of things to eat, and we have had some interesting visitors, we regularly get magpies and jays in the autumn and winter, we get robins,wrens,finches and on occasion we even get a greater spotted woodpecker, we also get great tits,blue tits and a whole load of other birds.

This year though we decided to try and get some more into the garden, so we used the coconut shells as feeders as well and we've hung them in trees to offer a little cover and some near to the front room window as well, mainly because we dabble in photography and we figured we might get some good pictures.

Here's the coconut feeders -

Bird feeders ready to go.
All you need to do is drill a hole for some string to go through so you can hang them on something, it helps if you manage to crack the coconuts more or less in half, then you can pack them with food.

The food is easy enough to make, we have tried different things but settled on doing things the same way now, it works, and it gets a lot of interest from the kids, they love to watch the birds in the morning and evening feeding and flying about the garden, they get to learn about birds and how they behave, so we kind of use it as an educational tool as well, our son is especially interested in them.

We hang the feeders near to trees in order to provide a little cover for the birds, it seems to work, all the feeders get emptied pretty quickly.

Here's one in one of our twisted willow trees - 

The smaller birds like this one a lot.
And I've also made one from scratch similar to the ones you can buy, this was to see if it was easy for my son to have a go at, but to be honest the coconut method is probably the easiest you can get.

Here's the one a made a while ago - 

Complete with bird :-)
This one is hanging about two metres from the front room window, and it does get a lot of attention from a variety of birds, mainly the smaller ones and this young starling, the picture was taken last year.

Right here's what we tend to use for our bird food. We buy the 1kg bags of seeds you can get from places like poundland, the Bill Oddy ones, they have a good mix of things that different birds like, and they are cheap, we've also bought packets of meal worms when they have them.

We basically get out the blender and chuck in some seeds, a little bread, about a slice (we make our own bread, so we usually have a slice spare) then we use either a fat ball or a small bit of lard (27p per block from Tesco) or some other type of fat, the bacon juices from the grill go down well and it helps to stick everything together.
You can add bits of apple, the blackbirds like this a lot, we have even used small bits of cheese, and other fruits, pears etc you can also chuck in a little cooked bacon rind, some of the larger birds like this, like magpies, and peanuts (not salted) Just mix it all in a lump, you can use a large bowel and then pack it into your coconuts the birds will love it, you can of course just buy them, but it's more fun for the kids this way (if you use a blender don't mix it for too long, you don't want to break the seeds down too much)

It's okay just to lay the mixture out on a bird table as well, but we wanted to encourage the birds to come a little closer to the house so the kids could see them better and so we could photograph them.

As we grow a variety of sunflowers we usually take the seeds we need for next year and lay the heads about the garden for the birds, this requires a little more work on their part but they seem to like them, so if you grow a sunflower in a pot lay the head some where for the birds, the sunflower hearts are very good for them at this time of year, it'll help them fatten up a bit.

Sunflower heads - 

Ready for the birdys.

Before I go I thought I would include some photographs taken by us of some of the birds we get in the garden, some were taken last year, they aren't the best but you'll get the idea.

Thanks for reading (pictures below)

Robin on our bird table (taken in the winter) - 

We get robins every year.

A magpie, we have had regular visits from these for the last few years, they are quite nervy birds, they don't stay long on the table, they take what they want and fly up to the large sycamore tree at the bottom of the garden to eat what ever they got, still nice to watch them.

Remember to salute them if you see them, bad luck if you don't ;-)
Next up, a great tit looking through sunflower seeds from our sunflowers, the smaller birds will almost always go for the sunflowers if they are about, then go for the food if there's no sunflowers.

Seems to know what it's looking for.
And then we have the jay's they have only been coming for a bout a year or so, they prefer the peanuts, but will go on the table for other stuff if there's no nuts, we have a pair that visit in the winter months on an almost daily basis, maybe you could make a project out of your bird watching, you could write down what birds ate what food, how they ate it, did they take it to a tree to eat, or just stay on the table ?

The jays - 

They don't seem to have any trouble getting the nuts.
Another jay in a tree - 

Don't know what it's looking at.

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