I got interested in birds and gardening by accident
; it all started when we threw out some stale bread onto the patio during the early Spring 2003.
Almost immediately we were visited by starlings; later came a couple of magpies and even a jackdaw (they look really
pretty up close). But these weren't very special really, were they?
We then put out a big dish of water and were very surprised to see the birds using it to bathe - and the magpies used it to dunk the bread in before flying off with a big chunk!
We slowly added a couple of cheap feeders, only with peanuts, as shown in the picture here. We were pretty amazed at the speed at which birds discovered them, so one of our feeders was changed so that we could have bird seed in it, instead of just peanuts.
The seed feeder (shown below) looks quite different to the peanut feeder because there are a number of opening (known as "ports") where the birds can get at the seed. The seed itself is kept in a transparent plastic tube, so it's very easy to see when it needs refilling. It keeps pretty dry during the rain too.
There are two main brands of bird feeders available: firstly those from the RSPB, with their Challenger, Defender and Conqueror ranges. You can find their products sold by CJ WildBird Foods Online
. Every purchase helps the RSPB raise money for their causes.
The other "big" bird food (and wild animal food) supplier is Gardman with their huge range of quality merchandise. You can buy Gardman products in just about every garden centre in the country, as well as from Haiths website
, sponsored by our very own Bill Oddie.
I've used products from both of these suppliers (over the Internet) and they are both as good as each other in my experience. I do find the RSPB site slightly more expensive compared to Haith's but then you have the factor in the "good causes" part of the price, I suppose.
I strongly recommend going to both websites and ordering a free, full colour catalog, they are simply eye-opening (so are some of the prices, so be warned!).
Welcome to the cheap seats
Now I know full well that you can buy bird feeders of all different shapes, sizes and colours from umpteen different manufacturers, and the unbranded, cheap £1.99 green plastic feeder most definitely has a place in many people's gardens. The ubiquitous red plastic "sock" of peanuts has probably saved more than one flock of birds!
If the feeders were better made (with aluminium fittings, for example) they would be too highly priced for casual purchasers and the birds would go hungry. One feeder can literally make the difference between life and death to some of our birds, especially during the winter months.
So by all means try the cheap bird feeders out first if you are new to the game - but be warned that if you get hooked like us then you will be buying the better quality products from the RSPB or Gardman. The better makes will last years, won't rot, rust nor fall apart with use.
You can even buy accessories to put them on poles (so the cats can't get at the birds, more on them later!) and trays to put underneath so the seed won't fall all over your garden and start germinating!