We take a look at our garden birds in mid Derbyshire


It?s 9 am on a bitterly cold January morning here in the middle of Derbyshire. Luckily the sun has just about broken through so the ice on the bird baths/drinking bowls should be melting very soon. The blackbirds use these bowls more than any other birds and they take ages splashing about in it, probably we think, to rid themselves of ticks and other vermin which they have picked up in the bushes they inhabit.

Top part of our garden
Top of our garden

Bird baths and drinking bowls are just as necessary in winter as they are in hot weather because however hot or cold it gets the poor birds still need to drink.


We?ve got the hang of water bowls these days, and we have several scattered about the garden, but when we first added them some years ago we were surprised to find that no garden birds would use them.


The reason, my sister said, was that our bowls were hanging and when a bird settled on one the whole thing moved and this motion put the birds off. We then put them on stable surfaces and from then on we have had a trail of feathered visitors every day.

We have a cut down cherry tree with a branch sticking out of each side, and on these branches we have several feeders for nuts, fat balls, seeds and meal worms during the breeding season. We take the issue of feeding our birds very seriously indeed, and to anyone willing to do this in their gardens may we first say that if you start to feed birds then you must carry on doing so because they will get used to where there is a mean, and if that meal isn?t there one day it means the birds have to use precious energy to fly elsewhere to find it.

Some areas are luckier than others in terms of the birds they attract, and our main varieties are house and hedge sparrows, blue tits, cole tits, the odd great tit, and of course the blackbirds.

Added to those are predators such as magpies and jays, and we are on the circuit of a pair of sparrow hawks which swoop in and out of the bushes and trees here. Predators they may be but they are a part of the natural order of things although it sometimes brings tears to my wife?s eyes when she sees a magpie predating a nest, but it is nature and not for us to interfere however much we?d like to.

Squirrels, the furry, cuddly grey little animals which so many people label as ?cute? are probably one of the worst predators of our garden birds and they will eat both eggs and chicks at every opportunity. You may have heard in your garden a blackbird and a squirrel having a verbal battle when the squirrel gets too close to a nest. It seems that all other bird noise ceases whilst this is going on as if they are waiting to see who wins.


Other birds like collar doves are also welcome here but we try to shoo off the huge woodpigeons which descend on our property mob handed as they can instantly hoover up all and anything we have put out for the ground feeders, and once they learn where to come for a free meal they can take some discouraging!

We would welcome more garden birds but sadly only get others like the nuthatch, the odd tree creeper and the occasional pied wagtail now and then but we have made friends with some gold finches since we added a niger seed feeder.


A family of wrens has been with us for 12 years or more, and we see gold crests (the smallest UK bird) on a regular basis. Robins too love what we provide and they are regular visitors when we do any digging or weeding, though they may have come from Scandinavia for the winter and could move on to the south of France before summer comes. They are probably our most transient visitors, but as we cannot tell one from another we love them all the same.

Wrens are fascinating and not only because they are so tiny (our 2 F smallest bird), but because they are able to change their metabolism to eat small spiders and insects during the warmer months and change to seeds and berries when it is colder and there are few insects to be had.

Foxes visit us on a nightly basis and though we don?t feed them they seem to find earthworms easily enough as we can see from their diggings. Those diggings became so bad some years ago that I was forced to close off all my raised beds with plastic netting to stop them digging up my vegetables. We don?t really mind the foxes though because they do little harm really but sadly we cannot say the same for the UK?s second favourite animal, the badger.

Well rightly or wrongly we do not like badgers. Neither of us would ever hurt one but how can anyone like a creature which predates the hedgehog, the UK?s most favourite animal? If you want to know why there are so few hedgehogs about these days they look no further than our black and white ?friend? the badger. They are the only thing which will kill and eat a hedgehog, and not only that but they predate low bird nests like the robin?s which are normally only 3 or 4 feet from the ground.

Their favourite food is the earthworm so they are another good reason for netting off vegetable beds because the badger with its massively powerful paws would make short work of any garden which has been dug and planted.