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The Misfits

Garden sparrows are misfits. I watch them from my garden office window. They are always alert and on guard - waiting to be found out. Like naughty kids in a classroom. Flitting high speed from shrub to shrub, the sparrows hop along the terrace and flutter behind the pots. They hang out on the bird feeders. Pulling up twigs from my creeping thyme and nipping at the lettuce and spinach shoots in my vegetable beds.

Despite their mischief, I love having them around. They are one of my favourite garden companions. Not as bold as the robin or watchful like the blackbird. The sparrows are sprightly and skittish. Aware of danger. They keep their distance and fly away at a sudden movement. Sheltering in the leafy safety of shrubs and trees.

I occasionally wish for slightly more exotic garden birds. I rarely see a goldfinch, a wagtail, a wren or a dunnock. The little blue tits are present but in much fewer numbers and are often bullied by the band of sparrows.

Pigeons nest in nearby trees and join the doves underneath the bird feeders. Pecking at any stray seeds. They seem a little daft and often miss the danger cues. The pigeons strut across the lawn when all the other birds have scared and flown to safety.

Exotic birds aside, I’m happy with any bird that visits my Cheltenham garden. They are all welcome and an army of misfit sparrows is much better than a garden devoid of wildlife. I’ll take the sparrows and the pigeons and will continue to do what I can to encourage the rest.

I'm always happy to hear other people talking about the birds that frequent their gardens. I like to compare notes and find out how friends and neighbours make their own green space appealing to birds and other garden wildlife. From bird feeders on balconies to nesting boxes on walls. No matter what size space you have there is always something that can be done.

Together our gardens create a huge area of green space and by providing food, shelter and nesting sites we can do our small bit to help garden wildlife.

As spring starts to take hold and the nesting season approaches there is a lot you can do to encourage birds into your garden, courtyard or balcony:

  1. Feed the birds – bird feeders are an easy way to attract birds. Seed is available from farm shops, garden centres, specialist suppliers and even supermarkets. It’s important to keep the feeders topped up and to clean them regularly to avoid spreading disease. You can also put out kitchen scraps such as bacon rind (unsalted), baked potatoes, hard cheese, dried fruit, fat and pastry. Bread is okay in small quantities. For more information on what scraps you can put out have a look at the RSPB advice here.

  2. Put out a bird bath. A shallow plant dish between 2 and 10cm deep will do. You could set out more than one. Clean out your bird baths and top the water up regularly.

  3. Plant a tree (or two or three if space allows). Birds like high places to perch away from cats and other predators.

  4. Plants shrubs. A mix of deciduous and evergreen shrubs provide birds with shelter, food, nesting material and somewhere to hide.

  5. Plant a diverse mix of herbaceous perennials and grasses. Birds rely on some herbaceous plants as a food or nectar source. They snack on seed heads that are left standing. Some birds will also use dead foliage in their nests. My creeping thyme is a favourite of theirs.

  6. Put up nesting boxes. You can even make your own as detailed here.

  7. If you're building an extension or adding an outside office include a swift nest brick or add an external swift nesting box underneath an existing eave. Click here for more information.

  8. Join a charity such as the RSPB or your local Wildlife Trust.


If you want more help or advice on how to make your garden wildlife friendly, get in touch with Emma at Wild Edge Garden Design.


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