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Start looking after your feathered friends12 November 2012
From this month: as the nights draw in and the temperatures drop, they'll need all the help they can get. Birds are your natural pest control in the garden, stripping aphids off roses and devouring caterpillars, slugs and snails – so look after them and they'll look after you.
The best way of feeding birds through winter is also the easiest: they adore berries, especially red ones, so plant lots of berrying shrubs to provide them with natural winter food and year-round shelter. You'll find a great selection in your favourite garden centre: pyracantha, rowan (Sorbus aucuparia) and cotoneaster are all bird caviar.
But to give them an extra boost, put out special bird feed, either hung from feeders or on a table. There are plenty of options at garden centres: nut feeders, made of steel mesh, or seed feeders will delight bluetits and greenfinches; mash more seed into softened lard and fill coconut shells or a hollowed-out log to attract house sparrows, treecreepers and nuthatches.
Keep cats and squirrels off with 'guardians', fitted around the leg of bird tables, and make sure you clean feeders and bird baths regularly to make sure your little visitors stay healthy.