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January: Time to be feeding our feathered friends

Christmas is over and we are into the dull, dark days of winter, so relax and do a spot of armchair gardening. Enjoy looking at the many seed and young plant catalogues that drop through the letterbox at this time of year.

The pictures are fantastic and the descriptions fill us with anticipation of the summer ahead. However, a word of warning here, the pictures are very often computer enhanced or taken in sunny climes such as California.

Try some new types and varieties by all means but do not give up on the old tried-and-tested friends that you know have performed well in your garden over the years. As we look out onto the winter garden, it is tempting to not go out into the cold but the gardens will look all the better for a few hours spent outside on a sunny, winters day and you will feel better too.

For many years now we have had and enjoyed a bird table on the patio outside our kitchen window. We see birds of all types coming to feed and by providing food in this way we are helping with the wildlife at a time when their natural supplies are diminishing. They in turn also feed on any over-wintering pests in your garden.

It is most important to feed the birds consistently or not at all. They will come especially to your garden knowing that it will not be a wasted journey, if they do not find any food, they waste precious energy. Give a good cross-section of high-energy foods such as seeds, nuts, fats, bacon rind and bread. Tits are particularly fond of bags of nuts as they can hold onto the sides. Unfortunately, so do the squirrels who will soon rob the birds of their dinner so invest in one of the many squirrel-proof feeds available if you do have a squirrel problem.

Do not forget water preferably from a birdbath. Birds feel less vulnerable when drinking and washing off the ground. Remember when everything is frozen the birds cannot drink or feed so brave the elements and pour some hot water over the food and melt the ice in the birdbath. The birds will become your friends and give great pleasure as you watch them perform around the table. They will also be helping to keep down the insect population in the garden reducing the need for pesticides.