Friday, 25 April 2014

Observing the birds

Observing the birds

If you are planning a garden, or thinking of putting up a bird feeder the simple act of spending time observing can tell you where to best place a feeder.

A very simply plan of the house and garden in relation to our boundary hedge (house = red, hedge = green, bird feeder = black and pond = blue, grey = car area) can demonstrate a good place for a feeder.

I observed the birds coming from all directions and then using the hedge as a corridor. They seem to avoid flying over open ground if possible. By placing the bird feeders next to the hedge I have attracted many more birds into the garden. One of the feeders is little more than 4 feet away from the house. I have observed the birds entering the hedge at either end, they seem to wait and check things out and then slowly move along the hedge until they get opposite the feeders.

They use the hedge as a safe haven and from there can simply make a very short flight onto the feeder. The further you move the feeders away from the hedge the less birds use it, so much so that 2 feeders with the same feed in but separated by 2 feet will show a marked difference in how much food has been taken. The one 2 feet further away takes twice as long to get eaten.

It makes sense to use natural bird corridors when choosing where to put your feeders and if you want to bring birds close enough to a window you need to provide the birds with cover right up to the feeder.

Simply placing a feeder in the middle of your garden may attract birds but by observing how birds like to move around using the safety of cover you can attract many more by either providing a corridor for them or by placing the feeder next to the cover.

Since placing the feeders next to the hedge I have also noticed that the birds are nesting close to the feeders, which makes sense.

Also by having the hedge corridor I can see that birds flying from one field to the next seem to choose to divert from their normal path in order to use the hedge and appear at the other end of the hedge to continue their flight to the next field, even when they aren't stopping to get my food.

Placing the pond next to the hedge, or at least close to it, I can also see that in the morning and often later at night birds flying home to roost seem to regularly stop off for a drink at the pond before continuing.

It's one thing to try and make your garden into a wildlife haven but by using the birds natural instincts to hide you can increase the potential birds by a big number coming to the feeder, and also your own enjoyment of them by bringing the hiding places right up to your window. 

I had seen a load of Gold Finches at the far end of the hedge, they seemed to always fly off away from the house until I placed Niger seed on to the bird feeder pole, then it became apparent that they have always travelled up and down the hedge upto the house but I hadn't seen them at the house end because they didn't come out of this part of the hedge. Once the food was there they started appearing from the house end of the hedge to get the seed. When the seed runs out I can see them still hiding in the hedge but they won't come out, replace the seed and within minutes they appear!.

I hadn't seen any Dunnocks at the feeder last year but this year there are and I think what has happened is that the more Great and Blue Tits feed the more seed ends up on the floor as they are very messy feeders, and with the more seed on the floor the more times a Dunnock appears because they like feeding off of the floor. Attracting one type of bird seems to help attract other types.


Sustainability as a lifestyle change

Sustainability as a lifestyle change

We have a wood burner which heats our hot water and radiators. We buy in large amounts of wood each year. It's quite easy.

One of the things about a wood burner is that it takes wood, sounds daft to point out the obvious, but wood comes in all different forms and if you want to be more "green" and sustain yourself better it would make sense to accept wood from other sources. There is plenty of waste wood that can be used.

If you can use waste wood and process it manually you can save some money and save some carbon by using wood that hasn't been chopped using a chainsaw or larger machine. A small carbon saving effort.

One of the problems with changing your lifestyle and using less carbon is the effort it can take. As an example I was offered a load of old round fence posts which had rotted at their base and become useless as a fence. The fence was being replaced and the old fence posts were just sitting in a pile and would have ended up being burnt as a bonfire.

Even though I had to use fuel to collect the wood, this would have been the case if I bought the wood as it needed to be transported to me and since I already drive to where the fence posts were I didn't do many extra miles in bringing the wood home.

I have a pile of around 80 fence posts and other assorted fencing material.

In order to chop the posts I could have done it with a chain saw in a few hours but that wouldn't have saved carbon or indeed much money (price of fuel and chain which would have been seriously blunted on the very old hard wood). Instead I have been sawing them by hand - it can take an hour to produce enough logs for a day - that's a lot of hard work, and will require a good 8 to 12 hours I think to cut all the posts into small logs.

If you look at processing waste wood to make use of a free resource, making the world that tiny bit more sustainable and reducing your fossil fuel carbon foot print it can seem an awful lot of work for very little gain (£30 to £50 of buying ready chopped wood) and is why many, if not most, people are put off. 

A lifestyle change

If you change your life style to accommodate a more sustainable, less wasteful, less reliant use of fossil fuels and do more things, such as chopping waste wood manually, it doesn't need to be a lot of effort and a lot of time for such a small saving in carbon and money terms. 

The change of lifestyle that I have made involves working a full week's worth of hours, 30 to 36+ hours, in three days which leaves 4 days left. A 4 day weekend is a lot of time. The odd hour here and there cutting and chopping wood doesn't seem a lot especially when I have time to go at my own speed and pause often to watch nature. It also isn't hard work, one hour hard slog can be replaced by a few minutes here and there during the whole day, interspersed by a bit of gardening, a can of beer, and a general walk around the garden.

Chopping waste wood may have saved up to £50, but it takes £60 or so of earning money once you take out tax and NI so the savings are in fact a bit higher plus the fact that I am working in my own garden, on my own terms, for the equivalent of that money rather than at work on someone else's terms. 

On top of a bit of carbon saving, money saving, you also get exercise, something that we all do too little of. The more manual work you do the easier it gets next time and the easier it gets the more opportunities you look for to save a few pound and a little carbon. 

Saving carbon and being a little more sustainable can look like hard work and time consuming but when combined with a lifestyle change it just becomes another enjoyable part of life.  

I don't think that you can expect people to cut down their carbon foot print and in effect reduce their quality of life without also showing that a change of lifestyle means that you don't have to reduce your quality of life you just need to change your life so as to accommodate a reduction in fossil fuel.