BIRDS

Although the activities of many birds are often beneficial in the garden, e.g. the swallows and tits which consume large quantities of insects, the depredations of others can be infuriating, especially blackbirds and thrushes in late winter and early spring. Bullfinches, are among the chief offenders. Crops which suffer most include currants, gooseberries, primroses, polyanthus, pinks, carnations, peas, turnips, radishes.

Regular filling of bird baths with water or providing them with scraps of food to suit individual tastes — e.g. pieces of fat for the tits — are said to divert attention from choice flowers and fruits. This is only partially true. Spraying with a solution of alum — I oz. in 2 gallons of water — deters the birds but this is soon washed off plants by rain. Spraying with a gamma-BHG (lindane) solution also has its advocates. The old-fashioned remedy of stretching black cotton over sticks, whether for a newly sown lawn or on beds of polyanthus etc., is effective. Proprietary bird scarers which make a jangling noise in the wind are as good as anything but must be renewed annually as they are easily damaged by high winds and heavy rains.

With soft fruits, the only permanent remedy is to enclose gooseberries, currants etc. in a fruit cage which should be not less than 6 ft. high. Recent work suggests that damage on fruit trees and bushes can be prevented by means of a grease-banding compound, similar to that used in September for banding apples and other top fruits to trap winter moths etc. This technique has been tested in commercial orchards, the compound being applied by brush in smears /j in. to 1/8 in. thick around the fruits buds. It takes about 10 minutes to grease an average-sized bush. Results are promising, although it is important to find the right formulation so that the final product deters the birds without actually glueing them to the tree.

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