Would you ever believe it - gluten free bird food? I kid you not. Okay… perhaps I am slightly, however Blackbirds were feasting and fighting over pieces of gluten free breakfast health bar in my garden yesterday morning (homemade with rice flakes, apple juice, butter, soft brown sugar, eggs, nibbled almonds, sunflower seeds, chopped figs and dates).
A short time later the Starlings arrived and the early morning diners had to run away with their posh breakfast grub. Needless to say, it wasn’t long before the dish was empty! Yep, once birds like the Starlings find something to their liking they don’t forget and the food doesn’t last long.
Feeding birds is an added expense to the household budget - especially at this time of year. I absolutely appreciate this as I experiment with a variety of foods and more bird species find my garden feeders. I have been considering my choices of foods in regard to best value for bird species and money. I have been closely watching the birds feeding in my garden for six years now.
During the winter our diets change to hearty, warm meals - here in Scotland anyway. All the bird websites, books and nature programmes tell us that birds need hearty, high energy foods to keep them warm when winter takes hold too. Birds need to build up enough energy through feeding to survive a cold night.
During years of shortages in natural food sources birds can come to rely on the foods available in our gardens. I am guessing this is one of these years as we had never seen the Great Spotted Woodpecker in our garden until recently. Now we have a least one regular female visiting daily and our temperatures have yet to get proper chilly!
Wishing not to waste household food like the breakfast bar above (which I considered reasonably high energy) I guessed the birds might try it if I cut it into beak sized pieces. If they hadn’t eaten it during the day, I would have removed it as leftover foods like this has the potential to attract unwelcome visitors such as rats. I would apply the same rule to bread too.
Wishing not to waste money and energy on bird seed at my garden feeders and tables I have tended to favour sunflower hearts over mixed seed mixes over the years. Unless they become damp and stick together, I find sunflower hearts are always eaten and are popular with most of our regulars. They can be expensive so this year I am trying to supplement this with a small group of peanut feeders for when the sunflower hearts run out quickly. This is working well for now and my garden is buzzing with bird life.
Taking a good guess, more people are likely to put out food for the birds at this time of year. When the garden plants die down and bird activity is more noticeable, the idea of hanging up bird feeders or putting out a bird table can sound an attractive idea. I would absolutely recommend it too with the added incentive that the birds do need our help.
Okay, despite all that I promote here on my blog… I’m going to be completely honest and truthful here – there are some unattractive things about putting bird feeders out too!
Weeds can be classed as plants just growing in places where they aren’t wanted. What I don’t want in a bird seed is uneaten food falling or being tossed in to my borders, cracks in paving and through my shrubs. This seed usually germinates and then when your gardening back is turned a weedy wonderland grows! It’s for this reason that I have not favoured mixed bird seed mixes.
Yes, I have heard (but not tried) that by putting bird seed in an oven you can sterilize it and then uneaten seed won’t germinate. Does it work? I couldn’t tell you – has anyone tried this?
Yes, I have used the ‘no mess’ mixed seed varieties. Did they work? I think to a degree they seemed to work (it’s been a while now) but I found the birds didn’t find all the seeds to their liking. The smaller grains were left uneaten which I then had to clear away… so food energy and money was wasted.
When an email came in from the RSPB headquarters in Sandy, Bedfordshire asking me if I would be interested in testing “a new extra table mix that has 10% more energy than standard RSPB Table mix” that has recently gone on sale, I instantly thought that it might be fun to experiment with this in my garden. Could they actually convert me to a mixed seed mix?
Would the birds visiting my garden find this new mix to their liking was the question? “We added a higher proportion of smaller and husk-free seeds such as sunflower hearts, oats and millet, making it easier to eat.” Would there be any waste though? That’s what I want to know. I also want to know if this mix will attract any new birds to my garden. Lol… yes I want it all ;-)
My seed sample came last Friday (thank-you RSPB) and I have to say early indications in my seed trial suggest my bird visitors might just be approving. However, I have some experiments I wish to do to thoroughly test this seed in the variety of locations and feeders in my garden. I want to compare it against sunflower hearts too. Lol… expect a lengthy, illustrated review when I'm done :-)
The minute I opened my seed bag and spotted the black sunflower hearts I knew who my first diner would be – I was correct. Lol… it began with one Coal tit :-)
This morning the blackbirds enjoyed another gluten free breakfast option. The Starlings turned up on cue as expected too. It was eaten even quicker today! I’ve an airtight container that will provide a couple more breakfasts over the coming days. Providing tasty gluten free food for a newly diagnosed Coeliac – well that’s another matter!
Last Monday, we got the unexpected news that my youngest (training to be a chef) daughter has Coeliac disease. Having never come across this in anyone I know I’d welcome any tips anyone has to share – for others too. Please drop me an email if you are unable to leave a comment and I’ll add your comment here. We have much to learn and adapt to.
As with bird foods (added expense in household budgets) gluten free foods are on the expensive side and what is needed here is tasty food with no waste if possible. My daughter has joined the Coeliac Society UK and is now awaiting her welcome pack with food and drink directory. This directory is going to be invaluable when grocery shopping.
We’ve browsed a local health food shop for basics, browsed gluten free food isles in supermarkets to see what they have and back in the kitchen a store cupboard has been rearranged to accomodated different ingredients and instant food choices. Lots of airtight containers were involved :-)
Although we can aceess recipes online and are able to buy books cheaper there too, we have also browsed bookshops and bought a gluten free recipe book. As you will have guessed from above - the first home baking trial wasn’t to my daughter's liking. I didn’t like it either. However, I am always up for a challenge and currently focusing on finding ways to continue providing as many favourite family meals as possible by adapting them. This food trial is going to be a true labour of love for me.
My blog has also been a labour of love over the last six years. I have enjoyed storytelling, taken many photos, captured much video and have experimented with layout and content. There is always something I want to add or adapt should I have more time. Gosh… and I have a huge backlog of unseen stuff I want to share… one day :-)
Due to lots of difficult personal stuff over the last year and a bit, my posts have been unpredictable and sparse. I’d like to say A HUGE THANK-YOU to everyone who has continued to visit and comment especially when my blog visiting has been on the quiet side. I really appreciate your loyalty. I have been very fortunate to come across so many fellow enthusiastic, kind and caring people over the last six years.
My 6th Blogaversary came on the day my daughter was diagnosed as a Coeliac. Understandably, my thoughts were elsewhere and I didn’t post a blog to mark it. However, I had planned ahead the night before by buying a cake which I photographed for my post. Spookily, we ate a piece then too not knowing what the next day would bring. My family had fun with a card and I put seven candles on my cake as I saw my blogaversary as stepping into a 7th year of Blogging. I was looking forward. I still am :-)
This Gardenwatching blog has opened my eyes in many ways over the last six years. To think it all began with pictures of the little chap above :-)
Regarding feeding garden birds, I hope my enthusiasm has helped others to experiment with foods and feeders too. My ultimate two tips would be to keep bird feeders clean and to be patient - don't give up if you don’t see birds come to your feeders right away. I’d add to that, don’t be frightened to move your feeders and mix up the bird foods you put out as then you are more likely to attract a wider variety of species especially during the cold winter months.
I often remember one past post title “if you build it they will come” in relation to a new Nestcam birdbox. What will come to my garden during year seven and where will my blog take me? Now that is indeed the question… hopefully back to garden visiting as I’ve missed sharing that. Wherever we go, I’d like to invite you to join us. Lol… thinking of you and my late nights at the PC, I’ll worker harder at shorter regular posts ;-)
Year seven… here we come!
This post was published by Shirley for shirls gardenwatch in November 2012.