The Birds and the Bees!

Late last year Biodiversity Gardens received an email requesting wildlife activities for a sheltered housing scheme in central Sutton and we jumped at the chance.

First things first, it is important to see what you are working with and this meant surveying the site. Our site walkover in November recorded 43 species, 29 of which were native (bearing in mind it was a sub-optimal time of year so it is probable that the actual number of species on site is much higher).

From our report there was a distinct lack of bird species, much to the dismay of residents who noted that over the past few years the numbers of different birds had dropped. This gave us an idea for a workshop – Banquet for the Birds! First of all we had to choose the dining table. Variety and cleanliness were top of our shopping list and we settled for a fantastic metal framed feeding station with 7 different feeding ‘docks’, including an all important water bath. Metal frames are a lot easier to keep clean than wooden tables but all bird feeders should be cleaned regularly to prevent the spread of disease.

Homemade Bird TreatsThen came the fun part – choosing the food! Residents were greeted with a selection of bird foods, all neatly presented in small bowls. These included; fruit pieces, unsalted peanuts (food allergy beware!), sunflower hearts, thistle (nijer) seeds and tasty dried mealworms. We even made some homemade bird treats by mixing up a variety of seeds and fruit with lard. Remember, if you are placing out dried foods in the spring then please make sure you moisten them with a bit of water. Growing chicks acquire all of their water from their food and can quickly become dehydrated or choke on dry foods. Bread should be avoided! We would also recommend avoiding grains (these are often used to bulk up cheap bird food) unless you want to be attracting pigeons and, dare I say it, rats.

In a perfect world we wouldn’t need to put out food for birds as our gardens would supply them with all the necessities. One of my main food supplies aside from berries and fruits is invertebrates and a great way to attract this natural source of food into your garden is by creating a wildflower meadow. Hence the idea for our second workshop, meadow creation!

Trampling in the wildflower seeds!

Trampling in the wildflower seeds! We placed all the turves grass-side-up at the back of the meadow to create a bank to hopefully attract even more invertebrates.

We chose a 3 foot wide border on the lawn against an existing border of evergreen shrubs that could be seen from the communal lounge. After a half hour or so of digging we had removed the turves (grass turf) and loosened the soil beneath. With a quick scatter of seeds we raked over the surface again and trampled the area flat to ensure the seeds were safely stored beneath. Hopefully, in a week or two and weather providing, we will see the first few seedlings emerge. A huge thank-you to all the staff and residents at Thomas House who made this possible. We look forward to seeing how the meadow grows!

If you have a plot of land that could use a little wildlife love, and a group of you to maintain it (be it residents, faith groups, social clubs etc.), then please get in touch! Email anna.parry@sutton.gov.uk.

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