Oranis­look­ing af­terthe­needs of­gar­den­birds

Bray People - - NEWS -

WATCH­ING and feed­ing birds in the gar­den is a long-es­tab­lished prac­tice and is some­thing that Oran O’Sul­li­van has pur­sued as a life­long ac­tiv­ity.

Be­gin­ning as a school­boy with a study of gar­den birds’ re­sponses to dif­fer­ent foods and a suc­cess­ful en­try to the Young Sci­en­tists Ex­hi­bi­tion, he pro­gressed to mak­ing a ca­reer in BirdWatch Ire­land, the con­ser­va­tion or­gan­i­sa­tion based in Kil­coole.

Af­ter 25 years with BirdWatch Ire­land, Mr O’Sul­li­van was happy to take on a new chal­lenge as a self-em­ployed en­tre­pre­neur. The vi­sion of bring­ing a new brand, Ir­ish Gar­den Birds, to the mar­ket­place, based on 50 years’ ex­pe­ri­ence watch­ing and feed­ing gar­den birds, seemed a nat­u­ral pro­gres­sion.

En­cour­aged by the lo­cal En­ter­prise Of­fice and by Wick­low County Part­ner­ship, over the last year he has de­vel­oped a busi­ness plan. ‘Ba­si­cally we pro­vide any­thing that peo­ple can use to feed and watch gar­den birds. If you start feed­ing birds they will come into your gar­den in num­bers, es­pe­cially dur­ing the win­ter. Bird feeds have ac­tu­ally got­ten quite so­phis­ti­cated. It’s not like the old days where all they re­ally got was some mon­key nuts and the cream from the top of your milk bot­tle,’ said Mr O’Sul­li­van.

A pri­or­ity was to source a top class, lo­cal grain sup­plier and de­velop a range of foods spe­cially for­mu­lated to at­tract small birds. Th­ese in­clude blends such as a No Mess, Hi-En­ergy blend (dubbed ‘ The Full Ir­ish’, it is a high calo­rie, nu­tri­tious blend of sun­flower hearts, kib­bled peanuts and pre­mium grade oat flakes) which is an all-round favourite in the gar­den, es­pe­cially with robins.

Ir­ish Gar­den Birds launched its on­line shop in May and opened up at Mount Usher Gar­dens in re­cent months.

‘Hav­ing so many birds around means that we are in an ideal po­si­tion to test the var­i­ous dif­fer­ent bird food and bird care prod­ucts and judge re­ac­tion from a thriv­ing bird pop­u­la­tion,’ he said. ‘We are com­ing up to the real busy time of the sea­son – win­ter. Peo­ple love feed­ing wild birds be­cause it gives you a real in­sight into their be­hav­iour. Also, if you are a gar­dener, birds and bees are great for your gar­den.

‘Gar­den birds badly need calo­ries dur­ing the win­ter. They can lose up to one-third of their body fat just from try­ing to stay warm overnight, so a quick, early meal can be very im­por­tant. Cer­tain items shouldn’t be fed to birds, such as chicken fat. It doesn’t so­lid­ify and ends up stick­ing to their feath­ers. Pro­vid­ing wa­ter is al­ways use­ful as well. In the win­ter, stick some­thing like a ta­ble ten­nis ball into a bowl of wa­ter to pre­vent it from freez­ing over.

‘I feed birds in my gar­den all year round, not just win­ter. It’s es­ti­mated that up to 80 per cent of bird feed­ers in Ir­ish gar­dens are empty at any given time,’ said Mr O’Sul­li­van.

‘ There’s an abun­dance of bird-life out here in Wick­low. I live just out­side Rath­drum and a Wood­pecker comes into our gar­den. They have only re­ally started colonis­ing Ire­land in the past ten years. It’s very in­ter­est­ing how pat­terns change all the time. We had a great sum­mer weather-wise for breed­ing birds. In our back gar­den, we had three dif­fer­ent robin nests dur­ing the sum­mer.’

Dur­ing au­tumn and win­ter, Ir­ish Gar­den Birds will be main­tain­ing its on­line web shop, which has over 100 prod­uct lines, and its re­tail pres­ence at the Blooms and Rooms Gar­den Cen­tre in Mount Usher Gar­dens.

Mr O’Sul­li­van said the range of bird food will be en­larged, with an­other two or three unique seed blends al­ready in de­vel­op­ment.

Any­one vis­it­ing the 50 Plus Expo in the RDS in mid- Oc­to­ber is asked to keep their eyes open for Ir­ish Gar­den Birds, while the com­pany will also be start­ing a new Wildlife Gar­den col­umn in the Se­nior Times mag­a­zine this month.

Oran O’Sul­li­van of Ir­ish Gar­den Birds (sec­ond from right) with (from left) Les­lie Maya Souchere from Blooms and Rooms, Deputy Pat Casey and De­clan Mur­phy from Blooms and Rooms at Mount Usher.

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