Give garden birds water in cold weather
Wednesday 24th December 2003 in the garden diary...
A recent cold snap in my garden here reminded me how important it is to provide birds (and other animals) with drinking and bathing water during the winter months.
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A common misconception is that the most important time to provide drinking and bathing water for garden birds is during hot summer weather. In fact much more comprehensive and severe 'droughts' occur frequently during the winter when all available water can turn to ice within the space of a few hours. Water for bathing is particularly important to birds at this time of year when the plumage must be kept in tip-top condition to get them through the cold snaps.
On this particularly cold day in my garden I saw more birds than usual around the feeders and many of them visited the pond where there was still a small amount of water to be found. If you have a garden pond, try to keep a small area of open water accessible during the cold weather for a few hours each day. You should never break ice by hitting it because the shock waves can be harmful to wildlife. I keep a plastic ball floating in the pond and when ice forms I can remove this to leave a small patch of clean water or thin ice; then I use an old plumber's adjustable spanner to grip the ice at the edge of this hole and break off pieces to make a larger clear area. If there is no clear water, I press a pan containing boiling water onto the surface of the thinnest ice to melt a hole first.
If you don't have a pond (or even if you do) you can provide an alternative source of water in any shallow container. Try to refresh the water every day. Never add salt or any other 'anti-freeze' to the water. An upturned bin lid is a good thing to use because of the shallow sloping sides. (You can support an upturned bin lid with a few bricks.) You'll be amazed how attractive the birds find it.
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