There's no denying that it's autumn now. Darker mornings when I wake up, leaves changing colour on the trees and lots of fields beginning to be ploughed all point towards the coming cold winter months.
But ploughed fields weren't always a sign of autumn. Before the amazing creation of winter wheat and the intensification of farming fields were left at stubble for the winter, and ploughed and sown with seeds in the new year, as temperatures got warm enough for crops to grow again. This slower pace of farming meant that during the winter fields were full of spilt grain and had lots of places for insects to hide over winter in the stubble. In fact, what was left sounds almost like a giant field of bird food and the birds loved it.
Now, with more efficient farming methods the stubbled is ploughed as soon as possible in most places; I saw quite a lot of ploughing in August. For many species, including the amazing Devon cirl buntings, this has been part (not often all) of the reason for massive declines. For some species straight after ploughing is a time of pleanty with gulls and other insectivores enjoying the many little animals that are pushed to the surface of the newly turned soil.
Early autumn is a good time for most birds. The hedges are filled with berries, seeds are still on flower heads and branches, nuts are appearing and the last of summers insects are still humming around. But as the season moves on food will become scarce and that's why this is the perfect time of year to put up some bird feeders.
It doesn't matter how big or small your space, or whether you live in a city or the country, once you've provided the food, birds with come! I live in a first floor flat in Exeter, with no outside space, if I can find room for a bird feeder, surely everyone can. And just think what an incredible sight it would be if everyone did. It doesn't even have to be a bird feeder, it could be something for all that other wildlife out there. A bug hotel, a frog hibernation tunnel or a hedgehog house, you choose.
For me, with no outside space, it's really a bird feeder or nothing. I did put up a bird feeder last spring but an unfortunate incident with the window cleaner meant that it is no more. So after a very busy summer I've been treated to two new feeders. The first is a small tray that sticks to the window and can hold a handful of seeds. I'm using this for meal worms to attract insect eating birds like robins, wrens and maybe even wagtails since we're close to the river. The other feeder is an RSPB Starter bird seed feeder, hung on a hook that sticks to my window filled with sunflower hearts. I had one of these whilst at university and saw loads of different birds using it including nut hatch, blue tits, great tits and coat tits. Hopefully there will be just as much interest in it this time. Sunflower hearts should appeal to most birds and so I'm going for the food that will attract the widest range of species.
After two days there's been no sign of visitors, but it has only been two days. Hopefully over the next few weeks birds will discover the feeders and enjoy this replacement stubble field in the middle of the city. The food is good for them in harsh seasons and it's great for me as I get to watch some lovely wildlife up close. If anyone has any garden wildlife stories or tips I'd love to hear them. For now, I'm off to sit and stare at the feeders in the hope I'll be around for the first visitor!