bluetitDon’t miss the RSPB’s ‘Big Garden Birdwatch’ on 26th – 27th January 2013. The RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) is asking us to count the highest number of birds at any one time that we see in our gardens over an hour at the weekend, which is useful in giving a snapshot which helps scientists compile a picture of what’s happening to birds in the UK. Hopefully the thaw will be on its way and we won’t get too cold! Anyone can take part – you don’t have to be a member of the RSPB. You don’t even have to have a garden – you can count birds at a local park. The RSPB website has a list of common birds to look out for with pictures for identification purposes. If you want to take part, just go to the RSPB at www.rspb.org.uk and they will give you all the information you need.

It is also a good time to be thinking about putting up bird boxes ready for the spring. When Oxfordshire and most of the rest of the country is still covered in snow, it seems premature to start talking about spring, but much of gardening, and garden design is about forward planning, and the bird boxes need to be up in plenty of time if they are to have occupants by spring.

Make sure there is always a supply of clean water in your garden – this benefits all wildlife not just birds – so defrost bird baths and clean them regularly. NEVER put anti-freeze in water in the garden as this will poison and kill wildlife.

On a different note, once we get some milder temperatures, it is worth cleaning your greenhouse, if you have one, which helps get rid of overwintering pests and diseases and lets in more light giving early seedlings a good start. I just use water and an ecologically friendly washing up liquid because I don’t want to kill any spiders, ladybirds or other beneficial insects that may be in the greenhouse. If you have a power hose, you can use just water.

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