What to Do If You Find a Baby Bird
In the spring or summer, as baby birds are hatching and fledging, it’s not uncommon to find one sitting on the ground. But what should you do if you come across a baby bird?
First you need to determine whether it’s a nestling or a fledgling.
What is a Nestling?
Nestlings don’t have feathers and may be covered in fluffy down. They are unlikely to fall out of the nest by accident.
What is a Fledgling?
Fledglings have most of their feathers. It’s common for fledglings to leave the nest a few days before they can fly. Parents are likely nearby and still providing food.
Helping a Nestling
Nestlings sometimes fall out of the nest. Unhealthy or ailing nestlings are sometimes pushed out of the nest by a parent who chooses to focus on their healthy offspring.
If you find a healthy chick on the ground, you should try and return it to its nest. With clean hands or gloves, pick up the bird and place it carefully back in the nest. You need to be 100% certain that you’ve found the right nest before attempting this.
If the nestling you find is injured or you can’t find the nest it came from, you should call a wildlife rehabilitation centre who can advise you on what to do next. Don’t offer any food or water in the meantime.
Helping a Fledgling
In most cases, it’s safe to leave a fledgling exactly where you find it. A protective parent is usually nearby and the fledgling isn’t in any danger.
If, however, you find the bird on a busy walkway or road, in danger of being attacked or trodden upon, you can move it to a safer spot. Only move the fledgling a short distance so it can continue to communicate with its parents.
Keep an eye on the fledgling from a distance to ensure that its parents are still close by. If, after close monitoring, you’re sure that a fledgling has been orphaned, do as you would for a nestling and call a rehabilitation centre.
Taking a bird out of the wild is always a last resort. But sometimes expert care is needed. Whilst there’s lots of internet advice on how to look after a wild bird yourself, only a specialist can offer a baby bird the care it needs to survive and thrive.
Common Garden Birds and What They Like to Eat
A wide variety of birds visit gardens up and down the country. They’re most likely to visit places that provide shelter, water and food. Their primary diet is made up of the seeds, berries, insects and invertebrates that can be found in most well-tended gardens.
But birds, just like humans, like a little variety. When it comes to treats, not all birds like to eat the same things. Each bird species comes with its own dietary requirements and preferences.
If you’re looking to attract birds to your garden, take a look at our list of common garden birds and the foods they like to eat:
The red breasted robin appears in gardens all year round, not just in winter at the legend would have us believe. Robins love to eat mealworms. You can grow your own but this is quite an involved process so buying them is an easier, if more expensive, option. Mild grated cheese also proves popular.
The goldfinch’s red and black markings make it an impressive garden visitor. These birds have a particular soft spot for nyger seeds. In fact, it’s the addition of nyger seeds to feed mixes that have made goldfinches a more common sight in our gardens.
Dunnocks are small, brown birds that tend to hop around on the ground. They like to stay close to cover and can usually be found under hedges. Dunnocks are most likely to peck at millet seeds left on the ground, under the bird feeder.
Collared doves are soft grey in colour with the black and white collar that gives them their name. Particular favourites for the collared dove include uncooked rice, wheat and barley grains.
Blackbirds are seen all year round. The like to eat insects, worms and berries. Flaked maize seems to be a blackbird’s favourite part of a seed mix whilst dog food can act as a tasty substitute for worms when the ground is dry during summer months.
The blue tit’s blue and yellow markings make it instantly recognisable. This tiny bird weighs just 11g. It likes to eat sunflower seeds and chopped, unsalted peanuts as well as juicy mealworms.
Learning what wild birds like to eat will help you to create a veritable banquet for your feathered garden guests. Provide a variety of food all year round and your feeders will be a popular gathering spot for a host of garden bird species.
Top tips for photographing birds and wildlife in your garden
Wildlife photography is one of the most exciting things you can do in your garden. If you have the right setup, it can be as easy as sitting in a deck chair with a glass of wine and your camera, shooting whilst you sip. But what is the right set up? Well, let’s find out, shall we?
The camera gear for wildlife photography in your garden
If you want to take your photos to the next level, a DSLR is the only way to go for wildlife photography. Now, you may think that a DSLR comes with a hefty price tag, but it doesn’t have to. You can purchase second-hand equipment and entry-level gear for only a few hundred pounds, and if you are new to wildlife photography, these cameras will grow with you for years. They also provide all of the control you need to get the shots you want.
While having the zoom to get to the birds and wildlife is important, you can achieve this without having to pay a crazy price. A cheap or second-hand 70-300 lens, or macro lens if you want to get down and dirty with the bugs, may be all you need to get great photos in your garden of all the wildlife. There are compromises to be made with cheaper lenses though, you’ll likely not have the best low-light shooting capabilities, and it will be non-stabilised, which brings me onto the next point.
Tripods and Monopods
Stabilisation is vital for wildlife photography. A great tripod or monopod should be used whenever possible. The extra stability allows you to keep the camera steady even if you are excited at seeing your first red squirrel. Plus, in low-light situations, it might just give you a chance of walking away with the photo you have spent all day trying to get.
Tips for taking photos of wildlife in your garden
I’m sure you guessed this tip would be on the list. Patience is vital when it comes to wildlife photography. You may be sat in the same spot for hours and then get seconds to shoot the photo. In these few seconds don’t move around and get excited as you’ll scare off the wildlife and have to start all over again. Just take a few deep breaths and get ready to fire off a lot of shots. This will take practice because it is very exciting to take your first few wildlife photos.
Shoot a lot of photos
All DSLR's have a burst mode, and this is the perfect situation to use it in. Burst mode allows you to hold the shutter button down and take multiple photos at once. Using this mode means you’ll have the best chance of capturing the creature in the few seconds that you have.
Find the right spot
If you can, create a hide in your garden. This could be a tent, a few palettes by a fence, anything that doesn’t alert the birds to your presence. Keeping out of sight and keeping quiet will make a huge difference. Remember, you are trying to observe the wildlife and their natural behaviour, so, even though it’s your garden, it has to feel natural to them. Otherwise, you won’t observe anything.
Remember, the wildlife you want to photograph is typically the most elusive, so, while you wait, practice with the more common species found in your garden so that when you meet the wild barn owl for the first time, you are ready to get the photo.
We hope these wildlife photography tips have been helpful. Why not get out into your garden and give them a try?
How to Put Up a Nest Box
There’s no better way to attract birds to your garden than providing them a cosy home to nest in. But birds can be a little picky about the residence they choose. Many a nest box sits empty year after year. Brush up on exactly how to put up a nest box to maximise your chances of garden birds making it their home:
When to Put Up a Nest Box
Autumn is the best time to install your nest box. Many birds will scout out potential nesting locations throughout autumn and winter before settling in the following spring. With a nest box up and ready, birds can also use the space as shelter during bad weather.
Where to Put a Nest Box
Where you choose to put your nest box will depend upon the kinds of birds you wish to attract. House sparrows and starlings like to nest under the eaves. Robins and wrens like a nest box placed under two metres high and well hidden by foliage. Woodpecker boxes should be placed three to five metres up a tree trunk.
Wherever you put your nest box, make sure there are no obstructions to the flight path. You should also protect your nest box from weather extremes. Face it to the north or east to avoid strong sunlight and slant it down slightly so that heavy rain is less likely to make its way inside.
How To Protect Your Box from Predators
Predators are a common problem. Don’t use nest boxes with a built in perch as these can provide a handy ledge for unwanted guests. A bird feeder is another temptation that can attract predators. Put your feeder at a distance from the nesting box. This way, you can also help to prevent noisy eaters from disturbing nesting birds.
Maintaining a Nest Box
Cleaning your nest box is an annual job. Nests are the perfect habitat for fleas and other parasites, which can infest newly hatched birds next year. In the autumn, when you’re sure that the box is empty, take it down and wash it with boiling water. Only hang it back up once it’s completely dry. You may want to put a few wood shavings or a little hay into the box. This will help to entice hibernating mammals and roosting birds throughout the colder months.
An inhabited nest box will provide you with endless birdwatching opportunities. Put it up at the right time, put in the right place and see to its maintenance each year to create the perfect home for nesters.