The sound of birdsong has to be one of the loveliest things about spring. It's up there with the smell of freshly cut grass, that first glimpse of cherry blossom and, of course, lighter evenings.
Whether it's a house sparrow, a robin or a collared dove, watching and listening to birds flitting around your garden is both soothing and uplifting.
The question is, how do we encourage these feathery friends into our garden or outdoor space? You could start by providing water, seeds and places to nest.
According to Jamie Wyver from the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), spring makes for the perfect time to start thinking about creating your outdoor haven. He said: "Now is a good time to plan your planting so that you can really help birds and your garden’s other wild inhabitants throughout the year."
With Jamie's help we've put together some tips on how you can get your garden bird-ready this spring.
How to attract birds into your garden
Jamie says the first thing you need to do is to see your garden from a bird’s point of view. They will be looking for food, water, and perhaps somewhere to nest. He said: "Birds will also be seeking somewhere to shelter and hide from predators, such as a dense hedge or a thick growth of ivy."
Another trick you could try would be to create a mini pond or water feature outdoors with the kids. "If you supply clean, fresh water, birds will be able to drink, and bathe to keep their feathers in good condition." Says Jamie. "In winter this becomes even more important as other sources of water may be frozen over."
"A pond is one of the best presents you can give nature in your garden, even if you just start with an old washing up bowl. Bury it in the ground, line with stones and grit, add some water plants like water mint and frogbit, add water and wait to see what turns up.
"Carefully positioned logs and rocks will help frogs, newts and toads get in and out, and plant stems will allow dragonfly larvae to emerge. Birds will be able to drink, bathe, and eat the insects the pond attracts."
What about people with small outdoor spaces?
If you don't have a garden or have a rather modest-sized outdoor space, there are still ways to encourage birds to come and say hi.
Jamie says, "Take a look around your neighbourhood. What’s missing that birds might need? A pond? A tree or shrub? Or perhaps you can help with a regular supply of food from a bird feeding station, out of reach of local cats.
"If you can fit in just one of these things then you could soon start attracting feathered visitors. If you don’t have a garden at all, then plants on your balcony, or a bird feeder stuck on your window can still help feed hungry birds."
What sort of environment do birds like?
You've placed a bird feeder outside, topped up the water supply and created a mini pond. So why haven't any birds flocked into your garden?
"Many of the birds that you see in your garden would originally have been found in woodlands," Jamie says. "So a good mixture of plants, including trees and shrubs, will be very welcoming to them. For example, native bushes like hawthorn give birds a safe place to nest and a supply of berries to eat in the winter."
According to the RSPB, birds and other wildlife will also really benefit from parts of a garden we might consider untidy - which is great news for all those who don't have the time to spend hours in the garden.
"House sparrows, whose numbers have declined dramatically over recent decades, seem to love a thick, tangly hedge," says Jamie. "Make your garden a patchwork of different habitats with a hedge, a pond, a meadow, trees, a nettle bed and grass for maximum effect."
What sort of food do birds love?
Just like all humans, different birds have different needs.
Jamie explains, "In spring and summer many will be looking for insects and spiders to eat and to feed their chicks. You can help by attracting those insects. A pond, a log pile, and a wildflower meadow, however small, will draw in all kinds of tiny fluttering, crawling and scuttling creatures for the birds to feed on.
"Later on in the year, birds like goldfinches will be looking for seeds to eat. You can give them a hand by growing plants like Michaelmas daisies, sunflowers, teasels and thistles."
Plus don't forget to keep your garden stocked up with seeds and nibbles.
what you'll need...
Invest in a simple bird feeder, as well as lots of food! Variety is key – as well as seeds, nuts and insects, provide fat balls, which are nutrient-dense. It's better to buy labelled bird food – remember that dessicated coconut should be avoided (it swells up inside a bird's stomach). Cooked oats and sugary treats are bad for birds' beaks.