Back in 1979, the RSPB invited their junior members to count the birds that visited their garden at a set time. It encouraged children to get involved with nature and allowed the RSPB to work out the top 10 UK garden birds. Fast forward to 2018, and it’s gone from strength to strength with over half a million people expected to take part in the annual #BigGardenBirdwatch.
Our boys are rarely happier than when they’re playing outside, and as we like to encourage their love of nature we ordered this year’s RSPB birdwatch pack. Within it was a ‘recipe’ for bird cakes. Simple to make at home, we decided to make this our activity for day 39 of #100DaysNoTV.
I’m not going to reproduce the instructions verbatim; instead, I’ll run through the main steps with a few tips added along the way. You can download your own #BigGardenBirdwatch pack from the RSPB website.
what you will need
Lard or suet at room temperature
Bird seed mix
Grated cheese (optional)
Raisins (optional – do not use if you have dogs)
Small plastic containers, e.g. yoghurt pots (the softer, the better as you may need to cut them)
A grown up
I purposefully haven’t stated the quantities of food, as it’s really up to you. Base your guesstimate on the number of plastic pots you have and how large they are. 🙂
get stuck in!
- Cut the lard into small cubes and place in a bowl.
- Pour in some bird seed, cheese and raisins. (Raisins are toxic to dogs, so please don’t use if your garden has canine visitors.)
- Get your hands in the bowl and mush it all together with your fingers. If you’re squeamish about getting your hands covered in sticky, greasy stuff (like me) you may want to get someone else to do this bit (thank you, Rob).
- Add more seed if you feel the mixture needs any, and combine well.
- Make a small hole in the base of your pots – a task for a grown up! (We put a ball of blu tack on the bottom of the pot, stuck it to a chopping board and pushed a screwdriver through from the inside.) The hole should be large enough to thread some string through.
- Make a loop in your string – large enough to hang the cake – securing it with a knot and thread it through the hole, loop on the outside. Before cutting the string, make sure it’s long enough to feed out of the tub and be looped back in once the bird cake has solidified.
- Fill your pots! Keep hold of the string and fill around it so it stays roughly central; you should have some string sticking out once the pot is full. (Our photos don’t show this as we only realised afterwards that this was a good idea! 😉 ) When filled, smooth the top with the back of a teaspoon.
- Stick the pots in the fridge for a couple of hours.
- Remove from the fridge and carefully cut down the side of the pot up to the hole to release the bird cake. Push the non-looped end of the string back inside the centre of your cake – with a skewer, or similar – to help secure the string. (We realised that without doing this the cake was liable to slip down the string.)
Take the cakes outside and find some bird-friendly spots to hang them!
- If you have a bird table, you could make a block of cake to sit on top.
- You can buy a wire suet feeder relatively cheaply; instead of buying the seed cakes to put inside, you could make your own supply.
- Why not split a coconut shell in half and fill each with the cake mixture. By drilling a hole on either side, you can tie a loop of string to hang in the garden.
The 2018 Big Garden Birdwatch takes place over three days: 27th to 29th January. It only takes an hour and if you have a good view of your garden from a window, you won’t even need to go outside. If you’ve never taken part before, there is a step-by-step guide of how to get involved in the “world’s largest garden wildlife survey”. Sounds cool, doesn’t it!
The boys and I are planning to wrap up warm and sip a cup of hot chocolate while we count our feathery garden visitors. Hopefully, some of them will tuck into our tasty bird cakes! 🙂
Bye for now!