Here at The St Andrews Hamper Co., and not surprisingly given our location, we’ve always got a bit of soft spot for coastal birds. The sight of seagulls soaring overhead or sandpipers skimming over the waves are as much touchstones of being at the beach as ice cream cones and sandy sausages. But with the garden finally starting to burst into bud and shake of winter hibernation, every day brings a new flock of visitors heralding warmer weather… fingers crossed!
The sight and sound of birds in the garden and countryside are both reassuringly familiar and instantly evocative. A personal favourite is hearing the distinctive wing beat of a pair of whooper swans who live nearby circling their neighbourhood, or the massed cries of pink-footed geese heading off from winter feeding grounds on a flight of thousands of miles back north to Greenland or Iceland for the summer.
During Covid-19 lockdowns, the drop in noise from traffic and aircraft flyovers meant that the dawn chorus and general birdsong were the loudest and clearest for decades. According to a survey conducted in Guildford, noise levels fell up to eight decibels since the start of the first lockdown, allowing birds to take centre stage and seem louder than usual.
common or garden birds
There’s no doubt that the UK is a nation of twitchers! In the 2022 Big Garden Bird Watch, the annual headcount organised by the RSPB to identify the most common UK garden birds, an amazing 697,735 people counted over 11.5 million birds. With the counting over and the numbers crunched, the pecking order could be revealed with the house sparrow top of the poll for the 19th year running. The much-loved robin retained its perch at number six, and the more often heard than seen chaffinch at number 10.
According to the RSPB, other common birds that are often seen include large birds such as carrion crows, collared doves and jackdaws, especially if you have a large lawn or an open bird table. Keep a look out too for species of small brown birds that regularly show up at bird feeders, although more numerous they tend to be harder to spot. The wren, one of the UK's smallest birds, is often seen in gardens but is more populous in the countryside, making it the most common UK bird overall.
food for thought
If you’d like more birds to visit your garden or a space close to where you live, make sure there's plenty of natural food available. Providing bird-friendly feeders, cover and nesting sites will all help to attract a variety of species. A top tip is to try to accommodate the changing needs of birds throughout the year.
Dense cover will entice nesting dunnocks, robins and wrens, while nest boxes are good for tits and other hole-nesters. During the summer, thriving insect populations are a great food source for tits and sparrows. Bushes with berries are good for thrushes in the autumn, but they will soon strip the crop so provide additional seasonal food like chopped up windfall apples. Fat blocks are important in the winter and will attract flocks of starlings. Whatever the season, keeping feeders full will ensure birds keep on returning to your garden or designated outdoor space. And that’s bound to be a feather in your cap!