Urgent plea to help save garden birds as temperatures plummet

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An ornithologist has issued an urgent plea for people to do what they can to help save garden birds facing death as temperatures plummet. As June Nelson explains, she fears countless numbers of smaller birds have already succumbed to cold and hunger as sub-zero conditions continue across the UK.

June is also warning that species such as wrens, robins and bluetits face another danger – lack of water.

Speaking to the Daily Record, June, 86, began by warning people that all accessible standing sources such as bird baths and ponds have been frozen solid for days: “Most folk would never think about birds needing to drink. I make sure that mine have several throw away plastic food cartons with warm water scattered about. The birds are queuing up to drink in preference to food first thing in a morning.

“I have already had to break the ice three times today on containers in my garden. Every day I have to go out every few hours to de-ice them. Even though it’s warm it’s frozen again in no time.

“I watched one wee robin take a long drink then stand for ages getting the warmth off the water. And in another one there was a blackbird sitting in the warm water trying to get a bath but there wasn’t enough room – I think I’ll have to get a bigger tray.”

June added: “Birds are wary about anything new. If folk usually have water out for birds then they will immediately welcome slightly warm water. For birds who have never seen a dish before it could take them a bit longer.”

With frost so deep in the ground June is urging residents to make sure that the birds have food too because the usual grubs and worms are unavailable. She said: “In weather like this the birds always love fat. I get some from the butcher and melt it down, fill a half coconut shell with it then hang it up.

“People never think about the birds but they are in trouble. Today I watched this little robin waiting for crumbs off the schoolchildren when they pass by.”

June added: “The cold really has been exceptional for Kirkcudbright. Being so close to the sea it does not usually get so cold as this.

“I have been here eight years and there has never been anything quite like it.

“Mortality among the small birds will be very high. But you will never see them lying around – usually they find a quiet hidden place and then die.”

More information about caring for birds throughout the year, as well as during the cold weather, visit the RSPB website here. 

June and her late husband Bryan gained global renown for their work in studying and conserving gannet colonies across the globe.