One of the things that nobody tells you when you move out to the countryside is that it’s far from quiet. This is particularly true in Spring, when the dawn chorus first starts to be heard!
In town the dawn chorus has to compete with traffic noise and the general hubbub of urban life but your average Blackbird can still give city traffic a run for its money when it comes to decibel levels!
Of course, it’s all about springtime and the fact that winter’s over and it’s time to start producing the next generation of our garden birds. The dawn chorus will run from March through to July and, if you’re up early enough, you’ll start to notice the earlier voices about an hour before sunrise. These are typically members of the thrush family – song thrushes and blackbirds – plus that great songster of the garden, the Robin. I’m always fascinated by how such a small bird can make such a big noise. As the morning progresses other birds like the Wren will add their voices to the choir, proclaiming their territory and advertising their availability as a mate; then it all starts to die away as they get on with the equally important business of feeding themselves.
There’s also a dusk chorus – a little quieter than the dawn version but featuring the voices of the Sparrows and Tits, that seem to prefer to sing at the end of the day, along with the occasional Blackbird; they’re the Karaoke Kings of the bird world – if someone’s singing they’re going to join in!
The significant thing is that it’s March and this is when the garden, regardless of location or size, really starts to come alive with wildlife and it’s particularly obvious with our garden birds. Apart from the early morning singing you’ll see much more activity in your garden as birds go about the business of rooting out the insects that have also become more active as the weather warms up. It is a good time to make sure your bird feeders are well stocked up. Even in a relatively mild winter, food will have been scarce and our birds need our help to be in top condition for breeding. This is particularly true of seed eaters like the Tits and Finches. Putting out highly nutritious food like Sunflower Seed Hearts will guarantee a good attendance at your bird feeders and, apart from the garden regulars, such as blue and great tits and chaffinches you might start to see some early visitors like the Chifchaf. If you’ve got a bird table put some mealworms out for the insect eaters such as the Robin; they’ll be much appreciated but please, no bread – although it’s not directly harmful to birds they can’t gain any nutrition from it, so it fills them up without actually benefiting them – if they eat too much they’ll start to suffer from vitamin deficiencies; in extreme cases it can lead to starvation.
If you’re providing food for your birds you might also consider putting out water for them. If you can put out a bird bath this will really be appreciated as it gives them the opportunity for a quick wash as well as a chance to drink – you’ll be amazed at quite how much activity goes on around a bird bath; they’re almost more popular than the feeders and it’s great to see the birds lining up for their turn in the water and the squabbles that erupt when someone jumps the queue!
If you really want to encourage bird life in your garden you could also put up some nesting boxes. Ideally they should be in place by now so that your garden birds are used to their presence and can start scoping them out as potential nesting sites. Remember to put them at a good height and preferably slightly hidden, in the branches of a tree or on a well covered wall, to keep them away from cats. Always remember to clean them out in the autumn so that they’re ready for new occupants the following Spring.
Any garden can be a haven for wildlife – a little effort on your part to encourage wildlife in will be rewarded ten times over.