Oran is looking after the needs of garden birds
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.