Turn your garden into a natural hotel

The cheeky heron, a skilled fisherman at work. Picture by Tom Pattinson.
The cheeky heron, a skilled fisherman at work. Picture by Tom Pattinson.

I’m sure the local birds view this site, and several others in the lane, as a convenient drop-in diner.

Fruit bushes and top fruit trees draw blackbirds like a magnet, and a diversity of berry-bearing ornamental shrubs cement the relationship.

If you decide to net a crop, it begins with strawberries, progresses to raspberries, then currants, gooseberries and blackberries.

A similar running order for shrubs appears like a menu – cotoneaster for starters, followed by berberis, pyrancantha, rose hips and several others. Holly is the choice for dessert.

We cannot overlook the seed eaters so provide suitable border plants. Cornflower, teasel and globe artichokes are goldfinch favourites, and there are many takers when the fading sunflower heads are ready.

With a little planning your garden can become a natural hotel for birds, with safe accommodation, free food and drink, plus en-suite bathing facilities.

According to the RSPB, gardeners spend circa £200million per year on bird food so we’re not alone in keeping the feeding station topped-up daily.

Are you prepared for the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch from January 26 to 27? There’s a free pack online at rspb.org.uk

Once the garden is set up to welcome feathered visitors be prepared for surprises. Last week a heron turned up at the pool. After a prolonged motionless period, its long neck plunged in and out came a newt, which was quickly swallowed. When the heron returned for more, it was time to give it a wave of the tea towel.

Bird specialist Tom Cadwallender is the speaker at our garden club in the Pavilion, Alnwick Garden, on Tuesday, January 29, at 7.30pm. Guests are welcome.