Feeding your garden visitors throughout winter is not only good for their health and well-being – it can make you feel a whole lot better, too!
How feeding your garden birds can give you the feelgood factor
In winter, many of us are prone to Seasonal Affective Disorder – the lack of light can make us feel more inclined to stay in bed and consume large amounts of carbs. As a girl with Irish roots, I would eat potatoes every day in every way, and I would not be sorry. The darker evenings can make it feel like you’re wearing a cloud on your head and if you’re trying to spot birds out of the window, you’re going to find it quite a challenge. The window of opportunity for watching birds is narrower, which makes it all the more wonderful when you see one stealing a berry from your bushes, as I did when I attempted to dig over a veg bed last week. During the colder months, our garden wildlife needs us to go shopping more and it’s been reported that even during periods of recession,
wild bird food sales remain relatively unaffected. There is so much choice that it can be overwhelming if you don’t know who you’re catering for and what their dietary requirements are. On a recent visit to the local country stores (we didn’t have one of these when I lived in London), I saw, over the boxes of fly-parasite
preparations, a really attractive man maneouvering a trolley. Stacked within the trolley were huge bags and tubs full of mealworms, sunflower hearts and fat balls. “What a lovely man,” I thought, “he must run an animal sanctuary,” but wondering was not enough. I needed to know what he was doing with it all.
“Wow, that’s a lot of bird food you’ve got there,” which of course, was not a surprise to him but was better than saying “like the birds do you then?”. As he lifted the boxes onto the counter, I watched the till flash up – 25kg of peanuts (£35), 12kg of niger seeds (£28), 20 suet blocks (£1 each) and still, it kept coming. By the time he had finished, I saw the total amount he had spent totalled nearly £200. He was fast becoming my new hero. He tells me that no, he doesn’t run a sanctuary but is stocking up for winter and that I look nice. I lied about the last part and being as I am standing in the queue with my other half, probably for the best. I want to ask him further questions about whether feeding the birds makes him happy but the receipt he stuffed into the pocket of his tartan-lined jacket surely says it all. It really must do.
Feeding the birds isn’t selfless. How can it be when we get so much joy from doing it? Of course, it’s helping them survive the coldest season, but actually it can do a lot more for us. Last year, a science journal presented findings that suggested watching birds makes people feel less anxious and depressed and they don’t have to be the showiest birds. To see any bird can make a difference. Garden birds are proof that even the smallest creatures can thrive when the conditions are less than perfect. Yes, winter can be tough – there is no shame in admitting that, but it can be made infinitely better by finding even just an hour in the day to sit, be still and see who is visiting your garden. If you normally have the first cuppa while reading the paper, why not postpone the news and take your tea back upstairs into bed. Why? Because there’s birds outside your bedroom window, too, and how often do you watch them? I’ve been doing this more so lately, and been amazed by the way the pigeons balance on the telephone wires. In the early morning, their silhouettes are perfect against the sky. Reframe the way you see the environment you inhabit. If you only have bird feeders in the back garden, why not put some in the front? If you’re in a flat, get yourself a small perspex one that affixes to the window. Perhaps you normally buy mealworms, why not peanuts, next time? As we head into a new year, forget resolutions. I’ve yet to meet anyone who has actually stuck to one. Instead, make promises to yourself. Stop trying so hard and just be. Feed the birds and let being in their company (even with a pane of glass in between) bring you joy. Soon, it will be spring and the world will look different once again.
Take time to enjoy a Robin eating berries
Mixed seed, a great ‘starter food’
You can enjoy birds even closer to your house, with a well-placed feeder