Wind, Rain, Frost, Snow, Drought - all of these affect the birds feeding habits and food supply. Whilst strong winds or gales are blowing, in wintry storms or driving rain, the birds are most likely to huddle in a sheltered spot rather than brave the elements. Feeding takes place only during the hours of daylight so there may be very few snatched feeding opportunities. Freezing temperatures can make the ground frozen and drive the insects and bugs deep down in the soil. Layers of snow can bury their food supply, flooding can put food under water or wash it away.
A good spell of dry weather and the ground becomes very hard, once again bugs and insects become illusive as they are driven further underground to reach soil that is moist, or seek damp hiding places. Puddles for drinking and bathing are few and far between.
Plant and tree seeds
Unseasonal weather can jeopardise the breeding programme and food chain. Wet, cold summers can threaten the survival of the newly hatched broods. Blue Tits and Great Tits rely on a steady supply of caterpillars and moths to feed their young.
The dandelion is the earliest plant to produce seed for the birds. Depending on how warm or cold the weather is in spring dandelion clocks are usually available from mid to late April. Other weed seeds follow with grass, nettle and docks joining the menu as spring moves on to summer, tree seeds like beech mast and conifer provide welcome winter meals.
Fruits and Berries
Our spring and summer flowering shrubs form berries in the late summer/early autumn, and in the hedgerow honeysuckle, rosehips, blackberries, elder, holly, rowan and sloes can be found. Windfall apples are a tasty treat to many species.
Subject to availability flying insects, such as greenfly, aphids, flies, butterflies and moths, together with caterpillars, worms, snails, grubs, beetles and spiders will be much sought after foods.
Bring the action closer so you can watch their behaviour, and follow the daily comings and goings of your garden visitors.
Give them much needed support during the busy breeding period and really make a difference during periods of natural shortages or severe weather. Provide the things they need and the birds will drop in whenever they need to refuel.
Plump, juicy mealworms are a real treat for garden birds. They provide a good source of protein, fat and valuable moisture, widely popular throughout the year, particularly with Robins and Blackbirds. Sure to cause a real flurry of activity! Mealworms are clean, odourless and easy to handle but if you're a bit too squeamish then go for dried mealworms instead.
Choose plants and shrubs for you and for the birds, creating a garden that is full of colour and, vibrant with life.
Small birds store less fat, so energy reserves that are needed just to keep warm at night, need replacing as soon as they wake up. A quick visit to the feeder for breakfast before setting off to forage for food is a huge help. Similarly, you will notice that many will drop in on an evening, topping up with a good supper before settling down for the night.