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One of the best and most exciting ways to get close to wildlife for many people is to encourage birds into gardens. This is often a great way to 'get into wildlife' whatever age you are. Birds will visit if you provide food, and water for drinking and bathing. In addition a number of species can be attracted by putting up nest boxes. Also the plants that you grow and way you garden, and habitats that you create, will have a big influence on which birds and other animals visit your patch.
For information about gardening for wildlife visit the Space for Nature or the RSPB and English Natures' site.
Feeding the birds
It is perfectly acceptable to feed birds throughout the year, but you may find that the birds that visit vary month to month. It can take a while before birds find your newly established feast, but once they have they may well become dependant on your generosity. Therefore it is particularly important not to stop putting out food once you have started especially in winter . In summer food can sustain adults while they struggle to feed their nestlings.
Hanging up unsalted peanuts in mesh feeders will attract blue, great, marsh and coal tit, green finch and house sparrow for instance. Other birds such as chaffinch, black bird, starling, collared dove and robin will require seeds, or other food, put out on bird tables or scattered on the ground.
Some birds such as dunnock and wren can be very shy and will more likely be seen when food is near cover, such as a bush. In harsh weather winter thrushes, such as red wings and field fares will move into towns and feed on fallen fruit such as apples. If you are lucky some other birds such as nuthatch, great spotted woodpecker and sparrow hawk may also visit your garden. You never know quite what you might see which adds to the excitement.
blue tit on peanut feeder
Bird feeders come in all shapes and sizes and can be widely bought from garden centres, pet shops or over the web. If you have squirrels taking the food you put out and they are a problem for you then you can get squirrel proof feeders. These only allow small birds to reach the food.
You can also hang up half coconuts and seed encased in fat and shaped into balls. It is worth investing in approved bird food as what you put out can be at best ignored or worse actually contain poisonous toxins that are fatal to birds.
Feeders should generally be placed in positions that cannot be reached by cats. Accumulated food on the ground can also encourage vermin, so you may wish to monitor how much is eaten each day and not overdo it.