Ireland’s Top 10 Garden Bird activities during the Covid Restrictions.
1. Keep a journal.
First, buy an inexpensive hard cover notebook, preferably with pen or pencil attached, and keep it close to the window where you view your garden visitors. Enter up all your observations, weather notes, sketches and counts., dating it as you go.
2. Set up a feeding station.
It doesn’t have to be elaborate or laden with fine foods. Start simple: maybe one peanut feeder (mesh construction) and some suet balls, either home made with added seed or bought commercially. Remember if they have plastic nets, remove them as they can tangle in small birds feet. Fat balls need a fat ball feeder or holder.
3. Start counting the birds
With practice you can get a good impression or estimate of the numbers of different species, relative to one another and record patterns in your garden. If you can, make daily entries and select the highest count or estimate for the week.
4. Sign up for the Garden Bird Survey
The 13 week survey runs from the first week of December until the end of February and is organised by BirdWatch Ireland every winter. It’s the biggest and longest running bird survey in Ireland.
5. Start studying bird behaviour.
Which birds feed on the ground, which birds high up in cover? Which hang upside down and which run or hop? Which birds form flocks and which remain solitary?
6. Food preferences.
Berry eaters, fat feeders, insect eaters, seed eaters, they’re all out there in the garden, get the notebook ready.
7. Study bird song.
Easy with practice, especially in winter when most birds drop territories and don’t need to sing. However, Robins are an honourable exception , so it’s a great chance to add their sweet notes to your memory bank. Expect to hear call or contact notes which are short communication tools for flocks and individual birds.
8. Try night spotting.
Wrap up well and take to the patio, hot drink in hand. Cold, calm, moonlit nights with easterly conditions sometimes have skies laden with migrating thrushes, en route from mainland northern Europe to Ireland for the winter. Listen for the thin ‘tseep’ contact calls of Redwings overhead and count the number of calls.. it may run to hundreds over a few hours or sample five minutes at a time, a few hours after sunset. Can be done effectively in urban as well as rural settings.
9. Adopt a pollinator plan.
Try and increase the number of berry bearing bushes in the garden and set aside areas for wildlife. Plant bee friendly bulbs now for spring returns, winter heathers for early feeding insects.
10. Put up a nest box or two.
If you have a sheltered wall or fence, a tree or two, you can provide a spring home for hole nesting birds such as members of the tit family or an open fronted box for robins and wagtails.