An alternative to  feathering your own nest !

(Providing nesting materials for wild birds in your garden.)

(click on any image to view a larger version)

sparrow nest material collecting

The English idiom “feathering your own nest” usually refers to someone selfishly seeking to make profit only for themselves and comes with the hint of dishonesty and greed. I think such behaviour is self-defeating and harmful to the Self and that the more you strive to do for others whether people of creatures is one of the many ways of ensuring your own well being and limiting the negative impact you might otherwise have on others.  It is taking more than you actually need a behaviour which is very rare in the natural world of wild creatures of all species. Such creatures are great role models because, unlike humans, they have simple needs and so take only what the actually need.

Of course at this time of the year wild birds are thinking of building new homes for themselves in order to reproduce and work hard gathering the construction materials. Gardens like mine are deliberately not that tidy because of my wish to create a haven for insects and wild birds. Birds gather dried grasses and other stiffer garden plant  debris for the construction of the bowl like basic structure of their nests which they weave together but then they hunt for softer material to insulate and soften the inside of the nest.

A few years back ,one day in  Spring ,  I noticed that the wild birds which I deliberately and happily try to attract to my little garden   (, especially the local house and hedge sparrow population ) were  sneakily “ stealing” the fibrous horse hair like material ( spagnum moss and coconut fibre  ) the lining of my hanging baskets to use in the construction of their nests. That gave me the idea of placing  waste materials  for nest construction in nooks and crannies around my little garden including softer stuff ideal for lining nests.

Molly -such a rich source of fluffy stuff for nest lining!

Molly -such a rich source of fluffy stuff for nest lining!

Molly, my loyal friend here is a constant companion whilst I work in the garden and she possesses beautiful white, soft long hair which seems especially designed to clog up out vacuum cleaner as she tends to shed hair all year round. ( despite the Dyson hype there is no vacuum cleaner that can cope with her fur without getting clogged up! )To reduce the amount of her hairy fluff in the carpets called for regularly weekly brushing sessions and in fact I saved all the fluffy wool like fur I gathered from grooming her.  She is a rescued dog and seems to have missed out on some parental training basics – she  doesn’t understand ball games and doesn’t do fetch! She also makes very little effort to keep her fur tidy and it got to the point that she had to be sent to the local pet groomer for a makeover. I deliberately asked the dog groomer to save all the fur she snipped off and that duly arrived in a full carry bag when Molly was dropped back off after her hair do.

molly's soft long fur- collected from grooming and a make over radical hair cut at the dog groomers!

Molly’s soft long fur- collected from grooming and a make over radical hair cut at the dog groomers!

A couple of weeks back when it was still mighty cold and yet officially it was already spring, I took clumps of molly’s fur  and lodged clumps of it between  the troughs and plant pots around my little garden.  In the lst few days temperatures have eased a little and the sun has visited on occasions and that has seen a change in the behaviour of particulary the small squadron of sparrows which had become regular visitors to the bird feeders I have set out at the bottom of the garden. Not normally ground feeders they are spending more time on the soil and lawn and less on the feeders.  Think this is a sign that the mating season is upon us and nest building is on the agenda. I presume too that perhaps the female birds may be ingesting small amounts of soil to aid egg production but that is just a guess!

What a delight then today to see a very determined effort by the local sparrows coming back and forth to the dog fur clumps and taking sections of it away to the nests they have under construction.

Hedge sparrow make severable visits today collecting material I have consciously put out around my little garden to assist in nest building activity.

A hedge sparrow making several visits today collecting material I have consciously put out around my little garden in obvious places to assist in nest building activity.

Wild bird populations are in decline in the UK for a number of reasons , in part reduced populations of pollinator insects have contributed to the problem as has the trend for flashy  hybrid flowers which are far lower in nectar plus possible the increasing trend for gardens in general to be far more manicured than in previous generations plus the way that people apply concrete, paving , gravel and so forth to make their gardens very low maintenance with ready made plants bought like furnishings. Most Brits have a bit of garden and therefore are or could be /should be in my view , an important part of supporting wildlife and bio-diversity.  From my own window her in my office at home just three of my near neighbours ( a short row of Victorian terraces with relatively small back yards actually have a passion for gardening. (Curiously those three properties and myself seem to be the only residents nearby who are concerned and actively involved  about recycling household waste. ) The rest of the nearby accommodation is largely  two storey rented maisonettes where people have very limited personal “defensible space”  and here we see the odd plant container or two outside and mostly hard surfaces plus the manicured grass verges in between homes. Yes life got busier and maybe more stressful and time pressed but actually gardening is for me the antidote to life’s stresses , is therapeutic and cathartic and a very simple and practical way to aid your own well being and help the environment. I do not believe that one person and little things they do does not make a difference – one person active in such things can make a significant impact on their immediate surroundings and beyond.

Having a wild bird friendly garden where we keep bird feeders filled regularly  and ample supplies of clean available water for drinking and bathing is helpful and of course such facilities   saves the need for the birds to waste calories and energy searching high and low in the wider neighbourhood for enough food to survive and perpetuate the species. Providing nesting materials is one way to aid survival but also increases the likelihood of the birds building their nests near your home thus virtually guaranteeing they will be regular visitors all year round.

why not check out my detailed and copiously illustrated blog entry on helping to attract and support wild birds in your garden here – enjoy ! http://www.johncoxonphotography.com/e-books/feeding-wild-garden-birds-winter-care-tips/

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