Katie Humble

Chaffinch, Fringilla coelebs, male, perched in conifer. Co. Durham. October.
Chaffinch, Fringilla coelebs, male, perched in conifer. Co. Durham. October.
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It was the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch in January and if you spent an hour, as I did, monitoring the birds coming and going in your garden, I hope you enjoyed it as much as me. I had a lovely mix of starlings, blackbirds, tits and finches. A couple of nuthatches and a great spotted woodpecker came to the feeders too and a raven came and strutted about on the lawn. I look forward to reporting back on the results and telling you about any really unusual sightings.

It was a strange old start to the year as far as the weather is concerned. One day it was positively balmy and the next there was thick ice on my car windscreen! This topsy turvey weather will inevitably have an impact on our garden birds so remember to keep your feeders and bird tables clean and well stocked.

Birds, Goldfinch, Carduelis carduelis, sitting on a branch, March 2004

Birds, Goldfinch, Carduelis carduelis, sitting on a branch, March 2004

Although on some days it will feel like we’re still in the grips of winter, our birds are already preparing for spring. Many familiar birds like chaffinches and goldfinches winter much further south and will be passing through our gardens to breed in Britain and need to find food on the way.

Between now and into March and April look out for siskins on feeders and bramblings with the chaffinches foraging underneath. One of the first birds I saw in my garden when I moved to Wales was a brambling and it was a real treat.

If you can drag yourself away from the wildlife distractions, there’s lots of things you can do in the garden at the moment. Prune your hardier shrubs, like dogwood, willow and hazel. But don’t consign your cuttings to the green waste – use some of the small shoots to make new plants from. Put the rest at the back of shrub beds - deadwood can be a wildlife haven of its own and will be a shelter for all kinds of beneficial creepy crawlies!

If you have a greenhouse, coldframe or a spare well lit windowsill you could also start sowing some vegetables and bedding plants. Onions and beetroot can be sown now and potatoes may just shoot too.

For more information on how to garden for wildlife and make the most of your patch visit