Birds a gardeners's friend - unless it's a partridge in the kitchen!

It was such a beautiful gardening weekend.  The Genus garden is now really coming into life.  After all the planting, weeding, hoeing, feeding and mulching it's sure to look good. Whilst we have been at it, the birds have been a particular pleasure.  The robin has been busy following us around picking over the turned soil.

This year we decided to keep the bird feeder up a bit later than usual (we normally put it away at the end of March) because it’s been attracting so many visitors and giving us so much pleasure.  The different bird species have really different personalities. The nuthatches are noisy and bossy, the woodpeckers nervous and shy, and the great tits down right argumentative.  It’s great too to know that many of these birds will go on to help us out during the gardening year.

The tits and nuthatches will be picking off caterpillars and other insects from trees, shrubs and herbaceous plants.  Many of our favourite garden birds won’t breed without a supply of natural food.  When we take the feeder down in a few days, the birds will be looking for high protein soft and easily digestible food as they feed themselves and their broods. Blue tits and great tits in particular will be keeping down aphids as they make tasty food for chicks and fledglings Although they tend to have one big clutch (all their eggs in one basket as it were) if it's a really good year they may have more than one brood and help out with insect pest control right through to the end of summer.  It's amazing just how much they get through. The BTO estimates that just one baby blue tit needs 100 caterpillars. Occasional starling visitors will be busy eating up the leather jackets, and we are very privileged to have green woodpeckers close by picking out ants in the orchard.

There are some downsides and disadvantages to having so many feathered visitors.  I left the backdoor open when I was out weeding and when I went back into the house for lunch, it was obvious the house had been invaded ….. little calling cards everywhere.  Can you imagine …. a couple of partridges had been casing the joint for titbits and were hiding out in my kitchen!!  I also caught them pecking off the shots of some of my favourite herbaceous plants including the peony.  Wood pigeons are the bane of my life, and it’s a never ending fight with them in the veg patch.  We really don’t know how best to keep them away. Of course we could use our old gardening clothes to make a  scarecrow but experience suggests that the fear factor doesn’t last long, and you need crowds of scarecrows to protect the entire garden!  The other annoyance are the blackbirds messing up the borders as they flip over leaves, stones and soil, and their habit of stirring up the pond and balding the marginal plants as they take their daily baths.

Never mind.  On balance it's great to give the birds a home they do more good than harm.