I've reproduced Helen Yemm's article from last Saturday's Telegraph here, because it begins with a question from Faye & Peter Burton, wondering if they added a drop of gin to their birdbath would it prevent the water from freezing over. It won't actually, as I keep my Bombay Sapphire in the freezer where it's remains a deliciously gloopy consistency. Faye would need to make her birdbath 40% proof plus! I like their style. On to Helen's article.
"This query, together with the threat of nasty weather from the north, got me out in my own garden this week. I cleared out the mouldy remains at the bottom of my seed holders, tipped out rainwater sludged up with autumn leaves in the various drinking/bathing places that the birds have found for themselves and generally re-stocked the garden with bird necessities.
"Like many (most, I would like to think) gardeners, I greatly appreciate my feathered garden visitors. And, as we are now encouraged to do, I feed them all year round. To welcome all-comers, I put out an assortment of food. Seed tubes containing peanuts and sunflower hearts, bought as cheaply as possible in bulk and stored in lidded bins in my garage, hang off a high bird table placed close to trees and hedges. These provide cover and perching places (in which, among others, gold and green finches, various tits and even nuthatches queue for "their turn"). But I make sure there is no thick evergreen growth at ground level near the table in which the one or two malevolent local moggies can lie in wait.
"On the ground close to my French windows, I put out different food entirely - mostly apples, chopped, or grated scraps of old cheese or cheap porridge oats slightly moistened with vegetable oil (I mix this up in big batches).
"My ground-feeding birds, among them beady-eyed blackbirds, dunnocks and a pair of softly twittering robins, have become incredibly tame and stay close to me while I am at work in the garden or simply hang around in the bushes waiting for my appearance.
"Gangs of jeering, clattering starlings flock down from the oak tree to splash around the edge of the pond and demolish all available food in seconds, while collar doves sit on the garage roof. It is a wonder I get any writing done at all."