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Birds face an icy blast

Feed them this winter!

Heavy snowfalls, bitterly cold winds and freezing temperatures, winter is truly upon us. People will change their behaviour to deal with this weather and so will birds, but they are going to struggle to find food and cope with this icy blast unless they get your help. At these times, gardens provide a refuge for birds with their relative shelter and free food put out by concerned owners. How will different species cope? The BTO/CJ Garden BirdWatch survey needs your help to find out.

[The BTO/CJ Garden BirdWatch: The BTO/CJ Garden BirdWatch is the only nationwide survey of garden birds to run weekly throughout the year, providing important information on how birds use gardens, and how this use changes over time. Currently, some 17,000 people take part in the project. The BTO/CJ Garden BirdWatch is funded by participants’ contributions and supported by CJ WildBird Foods Ltd and is the largest year round survey of garden birds anywhere in the world. For more information see www.bto.org/gbw ]

After a mild autumn, weather forecasters are predicting gale force northerly winds, bitterly cold temperatures and heavy snowfalls for much of the UK towards the end of this week. While this means that we crank up the central heating and put on extra layers of clothing, birds will be having a tougher time of it.

A relatively poor year in terms of seed crops has meant that berries have been stripped particularly early and natural food is running low. As this bout of cold weather hits the UK, birds are going to be heading into gardens looking for free food and for somewhere to sit out the cold snap.“We know that this cold spell will have a significant effect on birds and on how they use gardens. The combination of freezing temperatures and biting winds will mean that it really will be make or break time for some of the smaller species such as Robins and Long-tailed Tits,” says Mike Toms, the BTO/CJ Garden BirdWatch coordinator. Birds can lose 10-15% of their body weight on a single cold night and so a period of cold weather is a real survival battle for small birds.

“The food that garden owners put out for birds could be the difference between life and death for many species. We want to know how this weather will affect the birds’ behaviour. Will some species use gardens more than others? We really need peoples’ help in finding out what happens,” Mike adds.

The BTO scheme needs people to record which species visit their gardens each week. It has been running its Garden BirdWatch survey since 1995 and has highlighted changes in the use of the nation’s gardens by different bird species. Some 17,000 participants currently take part in Garden BirdWatch and send in simple weekly records of the bird species using their gardens. To receive a free information pack, phone on 01842 750050 or write to GBW, Room 41, British Trust for Ornithology, The Nunnery, Thetford, Norfolk IP24 2PUThe birds seen in our gardens will often depend on the types of food we provide for them. There is now a wide variety of special food mixtures available from both shops and via mail order. A mixture containing wheat, for example, will attract pigeons and doves into gardens. Black sunflower seeds are a favourite of tits, finches and other small birds. Leaving fruit such as windfall apples on the ground will attract thrushes, as will raisins and other dried fruit that has been soaked in water. Crumbled or grated cheese is especially good for attracting Robins. Fat smeared into cracks in tree bark might attract Treecreepers, Woodpeckers or Long-tailed Tits.

For further information please contact:
Martin Fowlie on 01842 750050 or email martin.fowlie@bto.org (during office hours)
Mike Toms on 01842 750050 or email michael.toms@bto.org (during office hours)

4th July 2014