The Back Garden Nature Reserve
Through programmes like Springwatch, the media has played its part in promoting conservation and making wildlife accessible to everyone. Bird feeders have never been more popular and anyone can now keep an eye on what’s visiting their garden with hidden cameras and infrared lights. But is our new found fascination with attracting wildlife to our gardens simply for our own amusement? Is it changing the natural behaviour of our wildlife? Or is it providing a future for conservation in an ever-more urban environment?
Birds like the chaffinch don’t visit feeding stations as readily as others but come to rely on them during times when other food is scarce or, as we experienced in early 2009, when it is covered under snow. This practice of feeding birds therefore helps to keep the populations of such species high throughout the winter months as fewer birds die from starvation or have to migrate to find feeding grounds abroad.
The UK’s blue tit population trend has shown a direct influence from an increase in bird feeders. Numbers are now higher in the winter months as less birds fall foul to lack of food even though there are suggestions that summer breeding numbers are down.
By feeding wildlife in their back gardens, the British public has helped to secure the populations of many of the UK’s favourite species. But the type of food and the type of feeding station are also important as birds have different bills and different diets. But feeding is only one way of helping wildlife and as more indigenous trees are removed to make way for new developments or minimalist, exotic gardens, nest boxes and other wildlife homes are becoming ever more essential to the survival of the UK’s bird, bat, hedgehog and insect species.
Despite being one of the smallest birds in the UK, blue tits are usually one of the pluckiest and are likely to be one of the first to investigate new things in their territory, like feeding stations. And with a bit of thought, patience and consistent feeding, the biodiversity of a garden will continue to improve with more and more species likely to benefit from it over time, both enriching the lives of the people who live there and helping our wildlife adapt to an ever-changing world as we put more and more of a squeeze on our natural world.