The Wheels are Turning Again!
After a few Winter months of inactivity on the land, the extra-ordinary February weather heralded the start of the farming year and the wheels started turning in earnest. Sian's dad has been weather recording for 34 years, and this February he recorded the warmest maximum temperature since his records began; a sultry 21 degrees C on the 26th February. Needless to say, farmers all over Hampshire were hard at work making the most of the beautiful days.
The first job for Richard was to drill our spring beans. This year he is using a variety called 'Lynx' (I do often wonder about the people who market the names for seeds!). To me, Lynx is either a men's deodorant or an elusive, scarce feline. Here's hoping the beans are not that elusive or scarce this year! They had a terrible time last year with flooding and then drought, so we are hopeful growing conditions will be much better this year.
Richard chose Lynx seed because it is deemed to be the highest yielding, which also has good resistance to downy mildew and a reasonable length of straw which will hopefully stand up until harvest - making it easier to combine.
This is the first time he has drilled into a cover crop and his main concern was that our tine drill would get bunged up with the cover crop, but it coped fantastically well and the beans went in without complication. You can see the remains of the cover crop in the photos here; lots of organic material stabilising and nourishing the soil. This is a very different approach from the old traditional one of cultivating the land or indeed ploughing.
He is now just waiting for the next window of good weather to start planting our spring barley. Thereafter, weather permitting, our canary seed will go in towards the end of March/beginning of April, followed by our millets when the warmer weather arrives in mid-May. So lots to do to keep your birds well fed next year!
Wrens tend to be quite solitary birds, but do you know what the Collective Noun for a group of Wrens is?
Here is a clue: doorbells can do this!
The answer will be on my next newsletter...........
Enjoy your birds and thank you for your business.
The official nesting season is defined as being 1st March to 31st July inclusive, so is well underway now. You may have noticed that farmers have finished hedge cutting, as it is illegal to disturb nests beyond 1st March, and you may also have seen squabbling birds fighting for territory. They may start to gather nesting materials in a likely spot, but these might not become occupied as it's usually just for practice, or to show off to a prospective mate.
With the possibility of another cold spell, it is recommended to continue with your high-energy Winter feeding until around mid-March. The birds still need to maintain Winter energy levels, and of course will need a boost for all the nest-building and showing off!
Once things really start heating up into Spring, it is time to change your feeding routine.
- Fat balls can easily go soft and rancid in the heat so should be avoided. Commercially made fat products are suitable for use in the summer, but may not be as popular and so any uneaten product should be discarded after three weeks. Our RWBF High Energy Fledgling mix (available from 1st April) contains MINI suet pellets, especially to reduce the choking risk for chicks while providing them with the sustenance they need.
- Peanuts should only ever be fed from a mesh peanut feeder so that small chunks are taken back to the nest, reducing the choking risk. Seed mixes containing peanut granules are a good option.
- Fruit such as raisins, sultanas, soft apples and pears cut in half, or even bananas and grapes can be fed.
- Mealworms and 'buggy' treats are good to provide in case of natural insect shortages, such as during a cold or wet spell in Spring/Summer, or a particularly dry spell where earthworms cannot be picked out of the hard ground.
- If a lot of food is being left in Spring/Summer then reduce the amount given. It could be that there is plenty of natural food around - great! But it's best to minimise the amount of food left in and around feeders so as not to attract vermin and disease.
- Consider helping the natural food sources - for example some plants are great at supporting caterpillars so you could grow the plant instead of providing the food itself, and let nature run its course. It need not be complicated - holly, ivy and nettles are popular!
- Live foods such as live mealworms and waxworms are a good choice, to supplement the birds' natural diet.
'Your Bird Stories' vary greatly from garden to garden, and we love to help customers with their individual ornithological issues.
Emma Kenworthy of Fishguard had an issue with starlings. She has nothing against them personally (in fact they are in sharp decline along with many other species), it's just that they have a tendency to scare off the little birds from hanging feeders. So she sent us a great pic showing off her new Ground Feeder Sanctuary, all arranged ready for the smaller birds to discover. The mesh sides are adjustable from 33mm to 58mm width, allowing you to choose which birds are excluded, or not.
On the ground in the middle is our Archway ground feeder. As well as the clear perspex roof keeping the rain off, it is also preventing starlings from getting at the seed on the very ends of the tray. A suet-filled half coconut is firmly attached to the roof, a Flutter Butter feeder at one end, facing inwards, and a hanging seed feeder right in the middle.
We think this set up looks fantastic, with a wide variety of feed to attract smaller birds. Hopefully they come flocking soon Mrs Kenworthy!
We love hearing our customers' tales of their garden birds when they phone or email to place an order.
Susan Thompson phoned recently, and we were pleased to hear that she had seen a couple of Great Spotted Woodpeckers in her garden, one of them possibly a juvenile. She was concerned that they seemed hungry but couldn't access the peanuts in her squirrel-proof peanut feeder, however, they had been feasting heartily on a suet-filled coconut and hadn't yet discovered the multiple suet block holder on the other side of the garden.
Susan sent us this snap of the woodpecker on the coconut feeder, with apologies for the condensation on the window making the image slightly unclear. Of course, if she had opened the window or stepped outside to take a photo then the subject would have flown off instantly. Bird photography is notoriously difficult! She is hoping to have better luck in the summer when she can sit outside quietly in a corner.
Susan says that both woodpeckers continue to visit daily and they have now discovered the suet block holders, although the smaller one still loves tackling the suet-filled coconut feeders when he gets a chance amongst the starlings. Her smaller birds don't get a look-in either when the starlings and jackdaws are around, so she has moved the coconuts away from the other seed and nut feeders, into a hedge, so they can feed in peace sometimes. As a result, the greenfinches (nicknamed 'The Green Party with a majority rule' by Susan) - who previously dominated the seed feeders and wouldn't touch the coconuts - have found them and really enjoy swinging away.
The latest development is that some blackbirds, which Susan had never before seen feeding above the ground, are now using the coconuts - probably after watching the tits, greenfinches and starlings going mad for them. The empty coconut shells have now been filled with our Tidy Garden Suet Boost which is proving very popular. Susan says that one of the blackbirds is much more adept at getting a good grip on the coconut shells than the other one, who wobbles and flutters off and needs to modify its technique somewhat.
Susan's quest for a good photo continues... she says she missed a classic shot recently of the woodpecker feeding from a coconut with a blackbird queueing on one side and a robin on the other.
What a fantastic lot of garden activity in Cambridge. Keep up the good work Susan!
Buy a Coconut Feeder >
The stitching has a plain side - just straight stitches...
...and a complicated stitch line (with more cotton overlapping).
Have the straight, simple line of stitching towards you, and go to the right-hand side of the bag to the tail of the stitching...
At the end of this tail you can undo one stitch (un-thread the single end of cotton through the last loop), you should then be able to pull the two cotton threads apart...
If this has worked correctly, the two threads should 'un-zip' across the bag - which is very satisfying!
If you have any questions about our stitched bags, our bird food, or any of our other products, don't hesitate to get in touch. You can call us on 01489 896785
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NEWS FROM THE FARM
The last few days have been extremely cold on the farm with harsh over-night frosts. At this time of year farm work is very quiet; predictably, the tractors are in shed. But we have been busy doing other things - like improvements and repairs!
This shed is destined to be our new pallet store. As our business grows, space continues to be a major challenge for us. This shed used to house grain storage bins, but we have removed them to create a useable and much-needed pallet store.
A cold January day isn't really the best time to be laying concrete, but a new forklift ramp will allow easy access to the new store. It's just going to take longer to set!
As for the repairs... well this poor fence has taken a pulverising over the last few years. As the size of the lorries that come in to us get ever larger and the ability of some of the drivers to use their wing mirrors can be very hit-and-miss (literally as well as metaphorically), we have modified the angle to give a more spacious reversing arc - and installed a 'heavy-duty deterrent' on point. Wonder how long it will last?
TOP TIPS FOR FEEDING BIRDS DURING COLD WINTER MONTHS
In last month's newsletter, I suggested some simple switches you can make to your bird feeding to really give your garden birds the energy boost they need at this time of year. You can find that information in my blog on the website. Here is a short summary of key points.
"Those of us who sadly have to watch our weight, will know only too well the expression 'make simple switches to healthier options' - which invariably means less tasty options! However just as you can switch to reduce calories, you can also switch to increase calorie content and food quality, which is so important when the weather turns cold, wet and miserable for out garden birds. Here are a few top tips to switch food choices for your birds:"
- Offer Peanuts with the highest oil content = more calories = more heat
- Offer Fatballs with the highest fat content = more calories = more heat
- Offer softer suet during hard frosts = easier digestibility
- Offer water in more locations = less competition = better thermo-regulation
- Offer high energy food in more locations and especially at dawn and dusk = better survival
- offer shelter - nest pouches and pockets are a great way to offer warmth
HIGH ENERGY BLEND - save 10% in January 2019!
Our High Energy Blend is a free flowing husk-free premium bird seed mix, packed full of the most nutritious and energy rich seeds. No husks means more calories per kilo, and no residual hate, offering much better value.
HIGHEST QUALITY JAVA PEANUTS
The Java Peanuts (Spanish type) are the highest grade peanuts available for your garden birds. Highest grade in terms of oil quantity and quality, which makes them seriously nutritious.
National Nest Box Week was established and developed by the BTO (British Trust for Ornithology) to provide a focus on nesting birds and to support their conservation and local biodiversity. It encourages the placement of nest boxes in your local area, at a time when small birds traditionally pair up ahead of the breeding season. Natural nest sites such as holes in trees or old buildings are disappearing fast, so our native birds need all the help they can get to find a safe spot to breed. Birds may even use the nest box year-round, roosting cosily in it during the Winter months.
Whether you have space in your garden, are a teacher, or belong to a wildlife group, placing a nest box or two not only helps the birds but provides an opportunity to observe bird behaviour more closely. There are even nest boxes available with built-in cameras, or space to put your own camera, making the breeding season especially exciting for children and adults alike.
Some good tips from the BTO for placing a nest box include:
- Use insulating material such as wood, at least 15mm thick. Metal or ceramic materials would get too hot or cold for the birds inside.
- A 32mm hole will suit most small hole-nesting birds, whereas a smaller 28mm hole will restrict the box to Blue Tits.
- The box should not be too small inside as this may limit the number of eggs laid, at least 130 square centimetres (20 square inches) is ideal.
- Perches are unnecessary and may even provide a foothold to predators such as squirrels and cats who go after the eggs and chicks.
- You will need easy access to the box to give it an annual clean ready for next year.
- Don't place nest boxes too close to each other as neighbours can be aggressive towards each other.
- Shelter the box from the weather - facing away from prevailing winds, rain and strong sunlight.
- Keep the box away from bird feeders to avoid distracting breeding pairs.
Why not make your own? Here is a great guide from the BTO - Make a Nest Box >
Here at Really Wild Bird Food, we have a great selection of nest boxes and accessories (such as metal plates to protect the holes from predators). Why not take a look now... and don't forget that if you include any seed, peanuts or suet pellets with your order then delivery becomes FREE! Shop Nest Boxes >
We recommend this Gardman Simple Multi Nest Box as a great starter box, as you can choose between a 32mm hole, 28mm hole or open front design to suit a wider range of birds and habitats, for just £6.95! Or why not get the kids involved to paint their own design, just £5.99.