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Old 21-01-10, 04:30 PM
Neil Rigby's Avatar
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Post Snow Watch: Your questions answered

We've had our most amazing response from you yet for Snow Watch with over 800 members and 2,000 items in the Flickr group, and over 700 comments and questions, all in just six days!

With such a rapid turnaround for the programme we had our work cut out to fit as much of your contributions as we'd have liked to. So we wanted to answer some of your questions and discuss some of your fascinating stories right here.

Feeder bullies


Competition for food sources is intensified by the arrival of snow as foraging is made even more difficult. We've had lots of questions about how to deter particularly aggressive feeder-hogging birds. Stephen Moss tells us that mistle thrushes and fieldfares are particularly good at doing this and will often persistently guard one tree. Unfortunately this is just the way nature is, but there are things you can do to help smaller birds get a look in at your feeders.

In true Autumnwatch/Springwatch/Snow Watch fashion a solution has come from some of you: EnglishFolkFan reported that to deter a blackcap bully she repositioned her feeders so that no single bird could guard all of them.
Have managed to put feeders where he can't see from his fav spot so others getting a look in. EnglishFolkFan (Twitter)
Fiona Sharp also had success with feuding couples of neighbouring robins when she separated food sources in her garden so that they didn't have to fight for access.
If you are experiencing similar situations in your garden try to supply food in a few different areas at more than a few feet apart. You could also place feeders at different heights as some birds prefer ground feeders where others prefer loftier tables.


Winter bird feeds
We've had a few questions on cooking fat and whether it should be used in feeders. The RSPB says that cooking fat is bad for birds. It sticks to their feathers and provides a breeding ground for bacteria causing them all kinds of problems. Polyunsaturated margarines or vegetable oils are also unsuitable. Lard and beef suet however can be used as they re-solidify after warming and are not suitable for bacteria to breed on.

The RSPB also advise that where fresh coconut is ok, you should never use desiccated coconut as it may swell once inside a bird killing it. Thank you Tony for your question prompting us to highlight this!
Read all the RSPB's advice on their What food to provide birds page.

Unusual visitors
Loads of you have been seeing unusual visitors to your gardens and we've had some wonderful pictures in the Snow Watch Flickr group.
There have been an overwhelming number of reports of fieldfare and redwing gracing gardens around the country and your pictures have reflected as much.

You've also been spotting waders such as lapwing and woodcock. The cold weather freezes their usual foraging grounds forcing them to enter your gardens to find food. In terms of supplementing their feeding, the RSPB has advised us that there is really very little you can do for waders in your garden as they are not partial to the usual birdfeed but if you can ensure there is an area of your lawn free of snow this will allow them to attempt to pull worms and forage for insects on the ground.

Winter roosts
We've also had reports of mixed and larger than normal roosts with Bridgette Bradely reporting 7-8 wrens in one nest, Elizabeth Emmerson counting up to 15 disappearing into one roost and Gill Jarman insisting she's seen 18!

Thanks again for all your questions and photos and do keep them coming in.



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