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Pigeon

Pigeons are the bullies of many a back garden. They are significantly bigger than most garden birds, and they often use their size advantage to monopolise our seed feeders and hog all the food for themselves.

If you're tired of chasing pigeons away from your bird table, there are a number of steps you can take to deter them. Follow these helpful tips from the Really Wild Bird Food team...

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Are you a bird lover who’s trying to attract more unusual and wild bird species into your garden?

Having a good understanding of the best wild bird food to offer in your garden will dramatically improve your chances of drawing a wide range of wild birds into your garden.

For many wild birds, the only food available to them is whatever can be scavenged from the local shrubs, bushes and, of course, the ground. So, as you can imagine - it's slim pickings. More...

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. 

woodpecker

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 >


If you have limited space in your garden then one of the best methods of attracting wild birds is by providing window or balcony mounted bird feeders and the necessary bird food.

With these window feeders you can really see the birds up close which is a fun and interesting experience.
Apart from attracting and seeing the birds close, the other advantages include:-
- usually these feeders stay well protected from all the annoying unwanted visitors like squirrels
- their local position means it is usually quite easy to clean the bird feeding equipement
- replenishing the food supply is usually easy
- birds feeding close to the house are usually better protected from predators

To make your visiting birds feel safer you could consider placing some plants or shrubs in pots that provide helpful cover.

At Really Wild Bird Company we have a wide variety of feeders which includes some that are ideal as window or balcony feeders such as the new Woodlook™ hanging feeders. These feature a tough, coated-steel mesh base, making them ideal for offering seed mixes and straight foods. The superbly stable frames of these elegantly designed feeders look remarkably like natural wood. They won’t warp or rot and never need painting or staining. These superb hanging feeders are available in Light Oak or Woodland Green finish.
Our new Woodlook™ hanging feeders feature a tough, coated-steel mesh base, making them ideal for offering seed mixes and straight foods. The superbly stable frames of these elegantly designed feeders look remarkably like natural wood. They won’t warp or rot and never need painting or staining. These superb hanging feeders are available in Light Oak or Woodland Green finish.


See our full range of bird feeders at The Really Wild Bird Food Company.

Raisins attract a variety of birds to your garden. These are nutritious for them and are loved by many birds as well as hedgehogs and squirrels. Bird feed often includes raisins in the blend. But did you know that these are very harmful for the pets? Raisins pose a potential threat to the health of the cats and dogs and if consumed by the pets may lead to grave problems such as kidney failure. This is because of the presence of possibly some particular toxin that leads to such renal failures amongst the pets. Those who have cats and dogs as pets should be very careful when it comes to handling bird feed that contains raisins.

At Really Wild Bird Food we have added a new blend of bird feed to our range that is raisin free and thus absolutely safe to use with pets around. This bird feed blend includes flaked maize and home grown and rolled naked oats, pinhead oatmeal, peanut granules, white millet and the plumpest sunflower hearts which makes this bird feed blend a high energy feed and very healthy and nutritious for the birds. This blend is best suited for a number of ground feeding birds such as robins, thrushes, blackbirds, dunnocks and finches and can be used all year round.

Those who do not have pets can go for the Ground Blend which is a fruit and nut muesli for ground feeding birds and is packed full of succulent raisins. Raisins are loved by birds such as blackbirds and thrushes and this blend is great for all such raisin lovers.

As we begin to see the end of winter and the beginning of spring it is time to check our gardens are good places for birds to thrive. First on the check list is to ensure there is a suitable place for birds to eat and drink, then there is the need to provide adequate nesting boxes.

To provide suitable places for birds to eat erect a bird feeding table and position it close to cover like a bush to provide cover in case birds feel exposed to danger of attack in open spaces. Obviously once you have a good bird feeding table you need to stock up with good bird feed that attracts the right birds.



While birds are easily lured by good bird food, there is also the matter of bird water baths. These can attract a variety of birds to your garden as they need clean water to drink and to keep their feathers clean.

The installation of bird nesting boxes in your garden will be a great help to birds. There is a wide variety of nesting boxes for birds easily available on the market. Varieties vary in material, sizes and size of entry hole. Due consideration needs also to be given to sitting of a bird box as different locations suit different bird species. You can have multiple bird nests in your garden placed slightly away from one another.

Bird nests that are a little weathered will be more inviting to the tiny garden birds than the very new ones.

At Really Wild Bird Feed we provide everything you need to provide a bird friendly environment in your garden. Whether it is bird feeding stations, bird baths, bird food, bird feeding station cleaning products or bird nesting boxes.

Birds are at their most vulnerable state during the winter. The weather is harsh and food is not available easily. During these difficult times, the first step in helping these birds survive is to make sure that they have access to plenty of food and drinking water. But this proves to be difficult as the harsh weathers creates problems with the food supply. The harsh weather and moisture spoils the food in the feeders. There may be snow or ice that accumulates on these feeders during winters making the food inaccessible. A few essential steps need to be undertaken in order to make sure that the feeders withstand the weather conditions and are of good use to the birds during the harsh times.

The first and the foremost is cleaning these bird feeders and making them ready for the winter. This includes disinfecting of the feeders.
The feeders should be thoroughly checked for damages and any feeders in need of repairs should be repaired before the winter.
Most of the birds rely on the feeders for their supply of food when there is a scarcity. The bird feeders should be full and the stocks need to be replenished on a regular basis in order to make sure that there is a continuous supply.


It also makes sense to make sure that the feeders are secured properly.
Since the weather is moist, lumps of bird food is formed in the feeders. So it is advisable to clean these out before refilling. Seed should be kept dry as much as possible.
There are feeders available that are meant for the winter months. These usually have better capacities.
Feeders can also be covered in order to prevent snow and ice from accumulating on them. For the same purpose, these can also be shifted to covered areas in the garden.
These are a few things that need to be considered to ensure that the birds have a steady supply of food during the trying times.

As the days turn cold, the threats that our feathered friends face increase. The food is scarce during the winter and sustenance during these times is a big issue for them. The birds need to struggle, not only for food but also for making it through the chilly season.

So where do we stand in helping our wild birds survive during these harsh conditions? Small measures by us can do their bit in helping the birds pull through the difficult times. These small measures by us can easily attract the birds to the gardens and help them to a great extent during the chilly days. But is your garden attractive enough to the wild birds?

As we know natural food is scarce during the wet and the cold days as the insect population is less. So it is important to try and create a garden which provides a rich supply of natural foods. The supplementary moist and high protein food will help the adults survive and subsequently sustain fledglings in the nest in the spring. Planting a range of native UK shrubs, trees and climbers will produce berries, seeds, fruits and nuts, nectar and pollen and will also serve as a shelter for the birds with nesting sites and nesting materials.


By simply leaving a few rotting log piles in a shady spot or an area of grass un-mown and messy will help a great deal in increasing the insect population in the garden. This tends to be a vital food source for garden birds which will help in attracting more birds into the garden.

During the freezing days it is important to supply clean fresh drinking water as the birds need to replenish their lost water. But obviously the use of salt, glycerine or anti-freeze should be avoided!

The more the variety of food, the more will be the variety of garden birds. So try offering a range of different bird food types in a variety of different types of bird seed feeders as the eating habits of different birds are different.

Apart from the early mornings, you will also need to restock food in the early afternoons to provide nourishment before dusk since birds need extra energy during the winters as they flap their wings in order to keep warm.

With these small yet vital measures of bird care, you can easily improve your chances of satisfying a variety of different species and enticing them back to your garden time after time!

When Bird baths are an artificial pool or shallow basin filled with water, which is made for birds to bathe in, cool off and…unlike for humans!…drink the bath water. Bird baths provide a safe place for wild birds to bathe as birds require bathing to keep feathers clean and flexible and to maintain their skin healthy.


A bird bath provides a reliable source of water for birds and encourages wild birds into your garden.. in the summer to take bath and in the winter to drink ice free water. Hopefully the bird bath will be safe from predators.

A good looking bird bath makes a wonderful feature in any garden and draws a variety of entertaining birds to your garden.

Several types of bird baths are available in varies shapes and sizes and in different materials like the cast iron bird bath, stone bird bath, concrete bird bath and the plastic bird bath. At The Really Wild Bird Food company we provide a wide range of bird baths (link to http://www.reallywildbirdfood.co.uk/bird-baths-and-drinkers/garden-bird-baths-10-36/) to suit almost every requirement.

A good bird bath should be simple, and light enough to make it easy to clean and refill. The surface of the bath should be rough allowing birds to grip it with their claws without slipping.

Position your bird bath in your garden where a bird can easily see any predator and near to trees where a bird can survey the area before landing to use the bird bath.

To use it to attract birds to your garden, a bird bath must be kept full of clean water. Cleaning your bird bath every few days is essential to the health and safety of birds that use it. Also keep your bird bath free of unsightly stains and smells. The benefits of bird baths are well worth the effort it takes in keeping them clean, filled, placed safely and picking the right one.

More About Helping Birds Survive & Thrive


Helping garden birds to survive and thrive is about creating a garden that your birds and other wildlife can appreciate and enjoy all year round. Thriving bird populations are a sure sign that we are creating a healthy and sustainable living environment. What we offer in our gardens is so important because the total acreage of gardens in the UK is huge - it actually exceeds that of all UK Nature Reserves put together! There are lots of things we can do to support our wild birds. This article will focus on feeding garden birds.


The best way to provide the supplementary energy and nutrients which your garden birds rely on, and to maximise the number of different species of garden bird visiting your garden, is to provide a variety of high quality food types, offered in a range of different feeders, at a number of locations throughout your garden. Then there is something for everyone to eat and pure enjoyment for you as you support a thriving bird population right on your doorstep!


Garden birds do have preferences for where and how they feed. Birds such as Chaffinches, Robins, Dunnocks, Thrushes, Blackbirds and Wagtails really like to have their feet on the ground. However new innovations like simple perch rings for seed feeders, act as a platform for feeding birds and make it much easier for Robins and Chaffinches to scale the heady heights of hanging feeders! Clinging birds like the Tit family and Great Spotted Woodpecker love to hang on to a feeder and birds like Greenfinches and Sparrows are happiest perching. So offering different feeder types is a really good thing to do.

What food you offer will also, to some extent, be determined by, e.g. the season and the climate. During the breeding season, when birds are feeding young chicks, food which is high in protein, such as live mealworms and waxworms will be of most benefit to the young offspring. Adults will feed their young before they feed themselves, so if live foods are in short supply, the adults tend to offer these to the chicks and they will fall back on available seeds. Sunflower hearts are a really good choice in this situation, since they are high in oil and offer an immediately available source of energy because they don't require de-husking which takes up valuable time; maximum energy with minimum effort!


During the freezing winter days, where small birds like Blue Tits and Long Tailed Tits can spend up to 85% of daytime feeding just to survive, high quality fat products, like suet pellets and fat blocks will offer the highest supplementary heat supply. And did you know that Great Tits change the shape of their beaks according to the feeding season? In summer, Great Tits prefer a soft, insect based diet – which doesn't require much chewing, however in the winter, when their diet becomes predominately seed – based, their bill becomes thicker, shorter and stronger to cope with cracking the seeds.

So which foods should you put out? There are 6 main food types which make up the basic staple offering for garden birds: A high quality seed mix, sunflower seeds, peanuts, suet products, live mealworms and niger seed And please remember, a fresh clean supply of drinking water is absolutely essential.

However it is also essential that the seeds you offer are of the highest quality and cleanliness. This will make them more palatable. Here, on our own farm, we grow as many of the seeds as we can, and we double clean seed to minimise dust and debris and maximise palatability. Supplying fresh seed is also really important. Birds won't want to eat stale seed that has been in a bag, on a shelf (or a feeder) for months. Here, on our farm, we can guarantee that the seed you purchase from us has been prepared and bagged within a couple of weeks of you receiving it – beautifully fresh and straight from our farm!

And not many other bird food companies can make that statement. It is also important to remind you that not all bird seed mixes are the same! When selecting a seed mix to chose one with high quality ingredients. Seeds fall into two categories – high oils seeds and cereal grains. Some wild birds, such as house sparrows, yellowhammers, chaffinches and reed buntings are lovers of the cereal grains. Cereal grains would include wheat, barley, naked oats, millet, canary seed and maize. In years gone by, when sparrows were in huge numbers in the UK, they could decimate large areas of wheat fields on farms by stripping the wheat. Nowadays, it is large pigeon numbers we have to contend with as sparrow populations have dwindled. Pinhead oatmeal (which is finely chopped groats – the kernel of an ordinary oat) has a high fibre and vitamin content and is extremely popular with many garden birds.

You shouldn't really expect to find barley grains in the seed mixes you buy, however yellowhammers and chaffinches do love barley and we have superb flocks of them here on the farm when there is barley lying in the fields. There are very many poor quality wild bird seed mixes available, especially supplied by shops and garden centres. These have a high % of wheat and maize in them – used as relatively cheap bulking agents. If you do feed a mixed seed which contains a lot of wheat or maize, you will find that you will be inundated with larger birds such as pigeons, doves and pheasant (if you are near open countryside) and jays, rooks and jackdaws. These bigger birds will dominate feeding areas and will prevent the smaller garden birds from feeding. Other cheap 'filler' ingredients such as split peas and beans as well as bits of dog biscuit are also found in cheaper bird seed mixes. None of these should be fed to garden birds so avoid purchasing these mixes.


High quality seed mixes will contain a good % of nutritious, high oil seeds like black sunflowers and sunflower hearts, peanut granules, oil seed rape and niger seed. Interestingly, although naked oats are a cereal grain, they do have a very high oil content – and this probably explains why they are so popular. For general, day to day feeding, seed mixes which contain a good blend of the oil seeds and cereals grains will provide daily sustenance. During periods of high stress, such as extreme cold weather or feeding youngsters, garden birds will benefit from being offered a diet, higher in oil seeds- be they straights, such as sunflower seeds or within a high energy seed mix.


The type of feeders you use will, to some extent be determined by the food you are offering. Most commonly, seed mixes and sunflower seeds are offered in hanging tube feeders. The common garden birds which use this type of feeder are Greenfinches, Goldfinches, Chaffinches, Sparrows, Blue Tits, Great Tits, Coal Tits and Siskin. Finches will typically stay at a feeder perch while feeding, whereas Tits will usually repeatedly visit the feeder and take away individual seeds to eat them in a nearby tree or bush.


Niger seed and Thistle seed are two fine small seeds loved by Goldfinches and Siskin. Thistle seed comes from the Teasle plant which grows wild in the UK. It is a biennial plant and it is therefore difficult to cultivate and harvest large quantities, making the teasle/thistle seed incredibly expensive to buy. You can often spot goldfinches feeding on wild teasle plants at roadsides. Niger seed is a more affordable alternative. It is a tiny, fine black seed, related to the sunflower seed, and grows in Ethiopia as the Ramtil plant. It has to be fed from a special niger seed feeder, which has tiny 'slit' feeding holes instead of normal seed ports. Seed ports would allow Niger seed to pour out onto the ground. Goldfinches and Siskin have extremely pointed bills which allows them to access the Niger seed in the special feeders. Whilst other finches, like Greenfinches, Bullfinches etc. do enjoy the taste of niger seed, the size and shape of their bills makes accessing the niger feeders nigh impossible!

 


Peanuts on the other hand require a steel mesh feeder since the mesh prevents garden birds such as Nuthatches and Coal Tits taking whole peanuts and hoarding them! The mesh offers a clinging area and means that birds like Great Spotted Woodpeckers, Nuthatches, House Sparrows, Tits and Siskins just peck at the peanuts. A 6mm mesh size is optimal; large enough to prevent beak damage, yet small enough to hold the peanuts back.


Peanuts are rich in fat, and must be 'nil detectable' aflatoxin rated. Aflatoxins are toxins produced by the fungus Aspergillus flavus that can affect peanuts and will be harmful for garden birds if ingested. The fungus develops if peanuts are transported or stored in hot and humid conditions. All the peanuts we supply here at Street End Farm have been rigorously tested to ensure they are 'nil detectable aflatoxin' rated. Please note that salted or dry roasted peanuts are also not suitable for your garden birds.

 


Soft-food feeders, for seed mixes with a high percentage of peanut granules ( see our Deluxe Robin Crumble) and mealworms, are mainly used by cheeky Robins, but you may find Blackbirds and some Tits recognise something tasty in the dish. Very occasionally a brave Wren or a Pied Wagtail may hop up onto a soft food feeder for some mealworms. These feeders usually have a 'roof' element to keep the rain off and prevent the peanut granules from becoming soggy.


These types of foods cannot be used in tube feeders for this very reason – they get clogged up. Live Mealworms, which are the larvae of the flour beetle (Tenebrio molitor) are 48% protein and 40% fat and can be used to feed birds throughout the year, however it is important that any mealworms fed to birds are fresh. Dead or discoloured mealworms should not be fed since they can cause problems such as Salmonellosis. Feed live mealworms from a shallow, steep sided dish – such as a ramekin dish, if you don't have a bespoke mealworm feeder.

Hanging feeders for suet pellets, suet blocks and fatballs are becoming ever more popular. It is mainly the Tit family which visit the fat feeders, and Long Tailed Tits in particular will arrive in families to feed on tasty fat products.


Again it is important to supply really good quality fat for maximum energy. We recommend that you remove any nylon mesh from fatballs or peanuts since they can trap tits by their legs and woodpeckers by their barbed tongues. Although we do still sell fatballs with mesh, (for customers without fatball feeders), our sales ratio of un- netted to netted is nearly 10:1 – so most customers now chose the safer option for their birds.


Another great way to help feed garden birds like Treecreepers, Firecrests, Great Spotted Woodpeckers etc , is to fill the bark holes in tree trunks with softened suet containing insects, mealworm and peanut granules- delicious!


For those birds that prefer ground feeding (such as Dunnocks, Blackbirds. Thrushes, Robins and Wrens), there are a variety of options available. The foods they love include black sunflower seeds, pinhead oatmeal, rolled naked oats, soaked sultanas and raisins, mild grated cheese, mealworms, and soft apples, pears, bananas and even grapes. You can simply scatter food on the ground for them, or a range of low level 'table type' ground feeders are available. With both these methods, ground feeder guardians are effective in preventing the larger (and sometimes less welcome) birds like pigeons, jays, magpies, crows, etc from hogging the feeder and eating all the food! It is important when ground feeding to 'feed to demand' and don't have uneaten food left over since this will attract rats. To reduce disease build up, try also to move the feeding area from place to place. A note of caution; raisins and sultanas are nephrotoxic to dogs and cats (can damage their kidneys), so please don't allow them to 'hoover' up the ground feed. And finally, of course, many ground feeding birds will happily land on a bird table they feel safe on as this Treecreeper is showing.

 

For tips on how to manage feeding birds in the present of problematic squirrels, please see our page on deterring squirrels.
With special thanks to Stephen Baldwin and Pete Berry for photographs

Not so long ago, feeding the birds was simply a matter of hanging up a plastic string of nuts and scattering stale bread. Now, bird tables are groaning under a smorgasbord of Robin Crumble, Finch Mix, insect-flavoured suet blocks and bowls of live mealworms. Even the humble peanut has been overtaken by the sunflower seed in a lofty £180 million bird food industry. Richard and Lesley Smith, owners of the Really Wild Bird Food Company, are one of a handful of producers who sow and grow their own bird seed. Here, on their 400-acre farm, near Bishop's Waltham, in Hampshire, fields of sunflowers light up the downs alongside millet, linseed, oats, rape and wheat. The seed is harvested, cleaned, mixed and packed before being sold online or at the local farmers' market in Winchester.


As a farm diversification scheme, growing and selling bird food seems to have taken off. From its early beginnings with just a few home-grown ingredients and a shovel, The Really Wild Bird Food Company is now in its fourth year of trading, with sales increasing even in the recession. ''Garden birds soon become part of the family,'' says Smith. ''Once our customers start feeding their birds they tend to carry on. They also like the fact that the food is fresh, home grown and fully traceable. All our mixes have been formulated to attract as wide a variety of birds as possible. Our most popular 'original' mix has 13 ingredients.''


To judge by the contents of the sacks, it looks almost edible with plump raisins and crunchy cereals that would not look out of place on the breakfast table. ''High-quality foods like these provide birds with the best nutrients possible,'' adds Smith. ''But we also sell more specific blends aimed at certain bird groups, as well as treats like dried earthworms.'' Robins, apparently, go mad for live mealworms, whose high water content makes them particularly useful in frozen conditions. Ground-feeding birds, such as blackbirds, enjoy raisins, while peanuts will attract woodpeckers. A recent arrival on the menu is the nyjer seed from the ramtil plant, which is popular with finches and siskins, but the universal year-round favourite is the black sunflower seed. Introduced in the Nineties, this seed has transformed bird feeding by providing a high-energy food in an accessible form.


Given the diverse range of crops, it is not surprising that Street End Farm is home to a healthy range of bird life. However, it's not just the seeds that attract them. Wild bird cover, native hedgerows and overwintered stubble all provide much needed habitat for many of our threatened farmland birds. ''In recent years, we have seen significant increases in the number of skylarks, lapwings and English partridges as well as a lot of seed-eating finches,'' says Smith. ''At the last count we recorded as many as 56 different species of wild bird on the farm.''


Lesley Smith, who is also a vet, advises customers to feed different foods in different feeders. ''Some species are ground feeders like the robin, dunnock and blackbird; others such as the tits and woodpeckers prefer to feed from hanging feeders. Spiky bushes such as blackthorn and pyracantha will offer cover from predators and clean water is essential for bathing as well as drinking.''
Unwelcome visitors such as the grey squirrel may be distracted from bird food by nuts in a separate container, or by caged feeders for birds. Smith also advises bird watchers to think like a bird and maintain a 6ft gap around a feeding station so birds can watch for approaching cats.


The latest advice from the RSPB stresses the importance of year-round feeding. In cold weather, a robin needs to eat half its body weight every day. Later, in the breeding season, high-protein foods such as live mealworms are important to make up any shortfall in insect supply. And, even in summer, moulting adults and inexperienced fledglings will welcome an easy food source. ''Bread will fill a bird up, but it is of little nutritional value,'' says Dana Thomas of the RSPB. ''If money is tight, kitchen scraps such as uncooked porridge, cake crumbs or grated cheese are much better.''


The RSPB's annual Feed the Birds weekend acts as a reminder to fill feeders, clean bird tables and put out water for wild birds in the coming months. The swallows and house martins may have gone, but the winter visitors like the redwing and the fieldfare are arriving. Even common garden birds, such as blackbirds and starlings, may have travelled to British gardens from Poland or Russia.
In this year's RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch, the long tailed tit flew into the top 10 of garden birds for the first time, almost entirely as a result of seeds and peanuts provided on bird tables and feeders. It seems that catering for the birds pays dividends.


Feed the Birds Day takes place this weekend, with more than 100 special events across Britain. For further information www.rspb.org.uk
PECK AND MIX