Living in a temperate climate means that animals and plants have a breeding season, i.e. they don’t breed all year. For this reason autumn is a time of maximum population levels and from the end of the breeding season all the way through to the next cycle, the numbers of individuals is decreasing constantly. Populations of many of our back garden birds for example are at an all time high in August but over 70% of these individuals will perish over the winter. One of the important determinants of survival is being able to find sufficient food in the cold dark winter day to give them vital energy to make it through the night.
Coupled with the increased food requirements to survive the cold, is the fact that the food on which they rely is also becoming depleted because insects and plants are not breeding either and their numbers are diminishing too. It is no wonder that the post Christmas months are known as the ‘hungry gap’. If you feed birds in your garden you are going to see more and more birds arriving each day, feeders emptying quicker and if you look carefully you will start to see additional species that you would not have seen earlier in the winter. The reason for the latter is because many species, who prefer to inhabit the countryside, are now unable to find sufficient food anymore and are forced into our gardens to look for sustenance.
If you are like me and leave the house in the morning before first light and return home after dark, it is easy to forget to fill the feeders. Just filling them on the weekend is not enough as birds will continue to visit the garden each day to check if you have put out food and they build that trip into their daily routine. This uses valuable energy and yields no results for them. The take home message from this is to ‘please remember to fill the feeders even if you are not there to see the birds’. From now on they are even more dependent on your garden than heretofore. They really need your efforts to help them through the hungry gap so that they can survive to reproduce again in the coming breeding season.