Bird Watching (UK) - - Go Birding - BY MATT MER­RITT

Pre­par­ing your gar­den for birds and wildlife can be a fun-filled ac­tiv­ity for the whole fam­ily

ITH THE WEATHER fi­nally tak­ing a turn for the warmer, it’s been a month for tak­ing stock and start­ing to en­joy the gar­den. It’s also been a chance to watch what’s go­ing on very closely, with a view to mak­ing the tweaks nec­es­sary to make it an even more wildlife-friendly space. And now is the per­fect time to get the kids in­volved – they’ll have great fun help­ing out (as shown in the stepby-step guide photos to the right).

The pond is now show­ing its worth, with Robins com­ing down to bathe and drink from the edge on a reg­u­lar ba­sis, and in­sect life emerg­ing from it and its en­vi­rons (al­though we’ve weeded in some of the flower beds, the area around the pond has been left to grow fairly wild). There’s been move­ment at night, too, sug­gest­ing a newt may be mov­ing in. We’re avoid­ing pes­ti­cides of all sorts, and so far we’re not get­ting any real prob­lems with aphids or small in­sects, but one tip sug­gested to me was to spray any aphid-in­fested fo­liage with very di­lute wash­ing-up liq­uid. But any­way, we’re still all about en­cour­ag­ing in­sects, so af­ter putting up a shop-bought lacewing and ladybird ho­tel, I sat down with Char­lotte, 8, and Ja­cob, 7, to make our own from an old pop bot­tle, some cor­ru­gated card­board, and a bun­dle of sticks and bam­boo canes. You need a sharp knife and se­ca­teurs, so adult su­per­vi­sion is es­sen­tial, but de­spite some in­ter­fer­ence from two ca­nines, who con­sider ev­ery stick in the gar­den their own prop­erty, it was a quick and easy way to add an­other po­ten­tial home for in­sect life.

We’re lucky in that our town still has a good pop­u­la­tion of House Martins (still plenty of older houses to pro­vide them with homes), and on fine evenings there have been plenty over­head, while Swifts ar­rived around 4 May and have been present in good num­bers since. The high­light, though, was a male Cuckoo that ap­peared on the aerial of a neigh­bour­ing house, mak­ing an odd chat­ter­ing call, be­fore singing its fa­mil­iar song from some­where just out of sight later in the day. Fi­nally, I’ve been care­ful to keep the feed­ers and bird bath topped up. While the seed feed­ers are only be­ing used spo­rad­i­cally, the suet pel­lets dis­ap­pear just as quickly as in the depths of win­ter, so hope­fully those adult birds for­ag­ing for in­sect food for their young are get­ting their own sus­te­nance the quick and easy way.

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