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BERRIED TREASURE! Berrying shrubs can be a lifesaver for birds when snow falls.

Byline: Graham Porter

WITH the longest cold spell for decades having hit us all recently imagine what it must be like for our native and migratory birds that have to spend the whole winter outdoors, without the benefit of a full larder and no extra heating to keep them warm.

This winter has shown how important berrying plants are to our birds as small flocks of field fares, red wings, mistle thrushes, song thrushes, black birds, green finches, the occasional waxwings and probably many more spend their time gradually stripping any berrying plant in sight, giving them vital carbohydrates, vitamins and proteins to help them to survive.

Remember that quite a few of these birds have flown from Central and Northern Europe to our shores in the belief that it would be warmer and milder than at home.

How wrong they were this winter! I wonder how many gardens across Britain have a good supply of berrying and fruiting plants, not only to provide us all with a horticultural autumn and winter spectacle but also to help feed these beautiful birds that are such an integral part of our gardens. The list of plants is endless but if every garden owner had two or three of these valuable plants in quiet corners of their gardens it would add a huge amount to the food supply of millions of birds across Britain during the autumn and winter periods.

Autumn and winter fruits and berries: Sambucus nigra (Elderberry), Hippophae rhamnoides (Sea buckthorn), Prunus spinosa (Sloe or Blackthorn) and Rosa canina (Dog Rose). Consider too Crataegus monogyyna (Hawthorn), Ilex aquifolium (Holly), Sorbus aucuparia (Rowan), Hedera (Ivy), Viburnum opulus (Guelder Rose), all Cotoneaster and Pyracantha (Firethorn).

Many of these can be used in a mixed hedge if there is not enough room for them as individual specimens or can be grown as a thicket in quiet corners of larger gardens that will also provide opportunities for ground feeding birds and will provide nesting and shelter sites for all the garden birds.

In addition, you can grow crab apples such as Malus 'John Downie' and Malus 'Golden Hornet' which you can share with the birds if you want to make some delicious crab apple jelly. In addition to these vital fruits for the birds, it is essential that a guaranteed supply of fresh drinking and bathing water is provided to ensure that the birds can maintain their plumage. A garden pond only needs to have a small area of the water surface available to the birds for drinking and bathing or you can place a fresh dish of water in a sheltered corner of the garden every morning or keep the raised bird bath clean and topped up.

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CHEERY: A Pyracantha (Firethorn) adds a splash of colour to the garden and gives birds something to tuck into and (below) consider planting elderberry too
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Huddersfield Daily Examiner (Huddersfield, England)
Date:Jan 16, 2010
Words:480
Previous Article:Meditations on the cold; Poet's corner: By Mr T Hargreaves, of Birkby.
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