The Marina’s farmland and song birds typically struggle during the cold dark months from January to April before the fields and hedgerows start to green up and there’s little food left from the previous year. David Boddy’s shrub and tree planting has provided a good berry harvest but the ‘hungry gap’ can still lead to many birds dying and those that survive suffering too as a poor start to the year leads to lower breeding success.
But many members of the Marina have been doing a lot to supplement what might have been a meagre diet. Bird tables and feeders have been evident at various points with fatballs, nuts, old fruit, sunflower seeds and seed mixtures all presented in a bird-friendly way.
Rob, one of the moorers with bird feeders on the grass bank beside his boat, did the RSPB Big Garden Bird Watch at the end of January 2013. He recorded the following in and around his boat: Dunnock (2), Blackbird (2), Goldfinch (1), Blue Tit (4), Great Tit (6), Long Tailed Tit (20), Greenfinch (15), Redwing (3), Great Spotted Woodpecker (1), Black Headed Gulls (3), Coot (2), Moorhen (6), Reed Bunting (1), Crow (1), Magpie (3), Mallard (4), Lesser Red Poll (1).
The Water Birds are dealt with differently. The best food is wheat and cracked corn (maize); chicken feed in fact. Greens such as lettuce or raw spinach (chopped or torn to beak sized bits) are good as are crushed raw potatoes – full of carbohydrates and an excellent winter feed. And skinned bananas past their best are very popular! All of this needs to be scattered on grass close to the water’s edge or in shallow puddles.
We have got stocks of wheat and maize in and have been given sacks of potatoes (riddlings). We’ve fed the water birds at the end of the promontory but there’s been no huge need this year with only a few days when the water was iced over. But that didn’t stop the waterbirds being very pleased at an instant banquet!