Garden Jobs For February
As the days get longer you will start to notice birdsong increasing at daybreak as male birds begin to mark out their territories in time for the mating and nesting season. If February is particularly mild you may even hear the beginning of the spring dawn chorus, as robins, thrushes, blackbirds and other species signal their availability to potential mates.
Natural food supplies may still be in short supply particularly if deep frosts persist and birds need plenty of sustenance to ensure they are fit enough to breed. Birds such as sparrows, blue tits and finches will use hanging feeders so keep them filled with high energy foods such as suet balls or fat cakes.
Avoid putting out peanuts and large chunks of food as there is a risk that they could be fed by adult birds to their fledglings causing them to choke. Safe foods include wild bird seed mixes, sunflower hearts, grated cheese, soaked dried fruits, pinhead oatmeal, apples, pears and other soft fruit and live food such as mealworms and waxworms. You can also buy specially formulated bird food for fledglings.
For ground feeding birds such as blackbirds, thrushes and starlings scatter food beneath your bird tables as long as cats don’t regularly visit your garden or use a ground feeder with a sanctuary cage to keep predators and larger birds away from the food. If the ground is covered with snow clear a patch to allow them to hunt for insects in your lawn.
If you haven’t already done so put up a nest box to increase your garden birds’ choice of nesting sites. Hang a nest box opposite a window in the hope of seeing birds coming and going as they build their nests. Boxes hung on walls are likely to be safer from cats and other predators than those hung from trees and branches and a north or north-east facing position is best for a nest box as strong sun can make them uninviting and even dangerous if they get very hot.
Before choosing a nest box consider the material and design. Woodcrete – a mixture of concrete and sawdust – is a great alternative to wood as it is cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter. Different designs will be suitable for particular species so it is worth doing a little research to find out which boxes will suit the birds that come into your garden and which ones will suit birds you want to attract.
A bird bath will be an important source of drinking water so ensure yours is topped up and free from ice. Change the water regularly and scrub the bath out with a mild detergent to help prevent the spread of disease.
February is the time to think about the plants you want to have in your garden to attract birds. Berry bearing shrubs will be enjoyed throughout the summer and autumn, and wildflowers will attract a range of insects that provide a natural source of food for birds as well as bees and butterflies.