Ping-pong Balls and Plastic…

Nothing sums up the ‘quirkiness’ of Brighton more so than those mentalists who prefer to take an icy dip in the English Channel on New Year’s morning rather than stay in bed hungover, scared of the outside world and what its shiny brand-new eighteen-score-and-five days will bring them.

But believe it or not, there are actually some warm-blooded neighbours of ours who really need to be splashing around in cold water at this time of year, and for these Sussex garden birds their chilly dip can even offer them a valuable lifeline.

So please consider helping birds with their bathing this winter by preventing their precious birdbaths from freezing over.
Our coldest start to winter in more than thirty years means that we must all take simple steps, like placing ping pong balls, corks or tennis balls into the water, banishing these freezing starts to our wildlife-friendly days.

Movement of these items in the wind keeps the water agitated and makes it less likely to freeze.

Short lengths of garden cane or twigs can also be used in a similar way, and provide great perches. Even by keeping a small amount of water ice-free, birds can still have vital access to something to drink and bathe in.
Conditions like these make birds much more dependent on water provided in our gardens as many natural sources freeze over.

Most birds, (like the Robin pictured), need to drink at least twice daily, so being able to rely on the supplies of our Sussex gardens makes a huge difference.

Birds also need water for feather washing. Bathing and preening are essential to keep feathers in good condition – helping them get around, find food, and escape predators.
Try to resist the temptation of pouring hot water directly onto ice; a pan of hot water placed on top will have the same effect, but without the risk of cracking your birdbath.

Boiling water directly on ice could even result in material like stone – often used in birdbaths – to fracture.
On some nights, icing-over will be is unavoidable so another good tip is to line your birdbath with a sheet of plastic or a bin-liner, so that you can simply lift out the block of ice each morning and leave it on the ground to thaw out naturally.

You can then simply refill the birdbath with fresh clean water.
So make sure you provide your garden birds with enough food and water during the winter; it keeps them better condition, and will so often be the main decider between their life and death.

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