Where have all the birds gone?
The RSPB receives high numbers of calls from worried wildlife lovers as feeders become empty in late summer, but the RSPB advises not to worry, as birds and their offspring have moved out into the wider countryside where food will be readily available now.
Many of our garden bird species will be finding food in the wider countryside and will return in winter. Now is a good time to prepare your garden for wildlife over the next year.
Gardens previously teeming with all sorts of species appear to fall silent almost overnight and wildlife lovers grow concerned that something has happened. The wildlife charity suggests you won’t need to provide as much seed, fat or mealworms as you might during the colder months.
Instead, the RSPB says there are lots of other garden projects you could do right now, whatever the size of your garden and wherever you live, which will then help give nature a home over winter and into spring next year.
For example, a sowing of ‘green manures’ such as scorpionweed can benefit your garden and the wildlife that visits it. These fast germinating plants smother weeds. If you plant them in August, there’s still time for them to flower, feeding bees and other pollinators with their nectar. Later their seeds will feed birds during the “hungry gap” in late winter.
Wildflower meadows can also be sown now, ready for next spring. These can include plants like bird’s foot trefoil, field scabious, ox-eye daisy and red clover.Their blooms will feed insects which in turn will be food for your garden birds.
After flowering you can divide up your wildlife-friendly perennials like hardy geraniums, heleniums, phlox and primulas. Spread them out or give them to family and friends for their gardens, creating new feeding places for nature.
Leave seedheads wherever possible as many of these will feed birds and other wildlife in autumn and winter. Your garden birds will be back when the weather gets colder, and they’ll really benefit from this harvest in your herbaceous borders!
The RSPB’s wildlife gardening expert Adrian Thomas said “Make the most of this quiet time in your garden to prepare for the next year. With the right kind of planting you can treat your wildlife to a feast of flowers, a banquet of berries or a smörgåsbord of seeds.”
As well as planting, there are a few other practical jobs you can do now to prepare for autumn and winter. One of the best things you can do for nature in your backyard is to make a pond or birdbath. Birds use this for drinking and bathing throughout the year, and a wealth of other wildlife will benefit too. This doesn’t have to be a massive project: an upturned dustbin lid or old washing up bowl is a good way to start.
At the end of September, when the breeding season is over, it’s a good idea to clean out the nest boxes in your garden. Pop the contents in your compost heap and use boiling water to clean out any parasites. After the box has dried out, replace the lid and hang it back up. Wrens and other small birds may use the box to keep warm during the winter. Remember to keep cleaning your bird feeders regularly.
You can get more tips on giving nature a home here: www.rspb.org.uk/homes