Water the birds, not the lawn, says Bill Oddie
The sizzling summer temperatures might have garden owners reaching for their hosepipes to keep their lawns looking good, but nature lover Bill Oddie is asking people to spare a thought for birds in need of water to drink and bathe in.
His message this summer is: "Water the birds!"
"I'm not for a minute suggesting that you sprint around the garden hosing down blackbirds and robins. That's not the kind of watering I'm encouraging," he says.
"No. It is as basic as this: provide fresh drinking and bathing water for birds, daily if you can, and you'll make life so much easier for them, and you'll enjoy the spectacle of watching them splash around. It's great fun, and it costs pennies. Get the kids involved this summer."
Birds bathe to keep clean and also to keep their feathers in good condition.
Bird baths are good for this but a shallow dish or plate will work just as well, says Bill. The most important thing is that it is filled daily and cleaned regularly.
"You'll soon be awash with happy birds," he says.
For some birds, the warm weather affects their food supply. Blackbirds, for example, would normally feed earthworms to their young but the dry weather means they will be more reliant on bird food being put out for them. While this will keep them well fed, it won't provide them with the same moisture as natural foods.
Bill is encouraging people to get their cameras out and share their pictures of birds bathing via the hash tag #waterthebirds
"Of course we know it will only be a matter of days before the weather changes and we'll have a deluge of rain," he says.
"However, providing fresh water, daily, is a great habit to succumb to as birds need watering all year round – even in winter."
Haith's Bird Food has this advice for your bird bath:
• It is best to use tap water rather than from a water-butt (unless the water from a butt is 'new and fresh' – e.g. after a storm), and the water topped up or replaced whenever necessary (which will probably be at least once a day if the birds take to it).
• It's likely that a small build-up of algae will occur and attach itself to the bird bath, but this can be easily cleaned of with a stiff brush (an old washing up brush is ideal).
• It's best not to use any sort of household detergent or cleaning aid to clean the bird bath (just clean water), but, if you do (perhaps because it really does need a very good clean), then it's important to ensure it's rinsed out with plenty of clean water so none of the detergent remains. Special wildlife-friendly cleaning products are available online at www.haiths.com
• Bill Oddie's Bird Food Recipes are available direct from ASDA, Sainsbury's, Waitrose and Wilkinson, or see www.billoddiesbirdfood.co.uk for details.