Aigas Field Centre
Aigas Field Centre

The Feeding of the Five Thousand

27 January, 2020. Posted by Aigas Field Centre

It was a rather grey afternoon on the Aigas estate, but myself and the other two academic placement students had been tasked with an exciting challenge – to design and build our own bird feeding station. With winter in full swing, the natural food supply for our garden and woodland bird species dwindles as invertebrates become scarce, the berries on the trees begin to disappear and the ground frosts over. Over the past month we have noticed, especially on the extremely cold and frosty days, the bird feeders we currently have up have been emptying at a much faster rate. This gave us motivation to construct another station to provide our regular winged visitors with a constant supply of food.

The last feeder that was placed in our selected area was repeatedly ripped down by a mischievous but very skilled badger tempted in by the peanuts – have a look at the camera trap footage we caught of the culprit in action…

Therefore, we needed to ensure our new feeding station was very much badger proof! We sourced all of the materials from the estate – the posts, plank and logs are all scots pine that was cleared from the plantation in an ongoing effort to allow more natural light to reach the forest floor, boosting biodiversity. The feeders themselves are up-cycled plastic bottles with a few holes cut into it and skewers pushed through to act as perches. We also wanted a way to place peanuts on our feeder as well as seed, so we decided to drill small holes in some logs on the ground that we can hide crushed peanuts in. This also meant that if a badger decided to come along, they would be able to feast on the peanuts on the ground, rather than attempting to climb our feeder to get to the top!

Three coal tits fighting over access to one of the bottle feeders. (Paige Petts)

 

As well as providing another food source, creating a large feeding station in this particular area gave us a space for setting up mist nets for bird ringing exercises. Our staff naturalist Ben is a licensed bird ringer, and with the help of another licensed ringer, the birds we have on site can be closely monitored. Catching and ringing birds provides information on the health of our local bird community. If an already ringed bird is caught, we can look back in the records and see when and where it was ringed, providing information on survival rates and migration patterns. On our most recent ringing session at Aigas, we caught a coal tit that had previously been ringed in the Cairngorms, a long way for a little bird to travel!

 

A male goldcrest caught on site during one of our ringing sessions. (Paige Petts)

 

Our new feeding station has been very popular since we finished construction, and we’ve had lots of different species visiting it regularly. Putting up your own feeders is a great way to attract birds to your garden, giving you the opportunity to see them up close but also providing them with a much-needed food source!

 

We were very happy with the finished product!

Words by Charlotte Robertson. Images by Paige Petts.

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