by Claire Greenslade, Head Gardener
What is the Big Garden Birdwatch?
This is the largest citizen survey carried out annually in the UK. All the information that we send them from our locations across the country feed into a huge database to help scientists monitor how our feathered friends are doing. The surveys help them to notice rises in populations and declines in species and try and figure out why. It is really useful to monitor our migratory birds and can also help scientists to see the effects of climate change on the birds.
How to take part
If you want to take part, go to their website where you can download a pack online which includes an ID sheets for common birds. You don’t have to be an expert. You just need to have time on your hands (haven’t we all), to sit patiently for an hour and watch (probably the best mindfulness exercise you can get!) I'm going to do this at home this weekend so I’ll let you know what I see. Also parents - this could be a great bit of home schooling!
Bird life at Hestercombe
At Hestercombe we take all our wildlife very seriously but last year with the pandemic I noticed so many changes to wildlife, particularly the birds. We had fewer people on site so the animals were a bit braver, or maybe we just noticed them more in the quiet. Also with fewer gardeners the gardens were certainly wilder. We weren’t strimming and tidying as much as normal. This meant more seed heads for birds to feed off and more habitat for them to rest in. We saw goldfinches for the first time and they even nested in the standard roses on the Victorian terrace. This has lead me to rethink some of the management techniques that we use around the garden and I’ll be making sure that we keep a balance between a beautifully kept garden and a useful wildlife habitat.
We have a marvellous friend of Hestercombe who not only makes us bird boxes but also comes in to check them and maintain them. Last year out of the 30 boxes that he put up, 27 of them had been nested in – mainly by various tits. Isn’t that incredible - proving that if you build it, they will come!
So this week, if you have an outdoor space, get yourself prepped up for the Big Gardenwatch. The RSPB website has loads of information on what to feed the birds and how different species like to eat etc. You don’t need fancy feeders, just a little knowledge and some creative thinking! Whilst we all have time on our hands let’s make this year’s RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch the biggest ever.
How to make bird feeders
I’ve been making these little bird feeders out of some coir pots given to me by Trill Farm Garden and some old suet from the Head Chef at Hestercombe (we use veggie suet these days). They're really easy and if you don’t have fancy pots you could easily do this with half an orange with the flesh scooped out or even by rolling a pine cone in the suet mix.
Step 1: tie some thread through the pot/orange ~ I used embroidery thread.
Step 2: melt the suet (you could use coconut oil as it dries hard).
Step 3: mix bird food, seeds, crushed nuts, oats, breadcrumbs, muesli, left over mince pies, dried fruit, quinoa (if you’re fancy!) - whatever you have really into the suet.
Step 4: fill your pot/orange/pine cone with the suet mix and leave to dry.
Step 5: hang on a branch for the birds!! Our chickens love them!
Please help us keep Hestercombe open
Over the last 30 years Hestercombe’s historic landscape and its unique, world famous gardens have been lovingly restored.
However, Hestercombe’s closure due to the Covid-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on Hestercombe Gardens Trust’s finances. We’re an independent charity without the safety net of larger organisations, and we must now raise substantial funds to ensure Hestercombe continues to thrive and to help secure its magnificent heritage for future generations.
We would be incredibly grateful for any donation that you are able to give. Thank you.
If you are a UK taxpayer and you select ‘Please Gift Aid this donation’, the UK Government will give Hestercombe Gardens Trust an additional contribution of 25% at no extra cost to you.
I'd like to donate