The term ‘bird gardening’ was coined by Maxwell Knight in his book titled ‘Bird Gardening. How to Attract Birds’ (Routledge & K. Paul, 1954).
Older readers will remember Maxwell Knight as one of the radio personalities who appeared on such programmes as ‘Nature Parliament’ and ‘The Naturalist’ in the 1950s.
He was an enigmatic character; as documents are now revealing, he played an important part in MI5 in the Second World War and (as a friend and colleague of Ian Fleming, whom he recruited to MI5) was probably the inspiration for the character ‘M’ in what has become one of Hollywood’s most successful film franchises, James Bond.
It’s a fascinating historical biography: MI5 spymaster, BBC natural history broadcaster, and early environmentalist – he was even aware of climate change. He was the spy who loved nature.
The observation skills he honed working for the Security Service during World War Two were founded in a rather different field; they were earned whilst working for his naturalist badge as a boy scout, at the tender age of twelve. They were the very same skills introduced into the scout movement by Robert Baden-Powell.
‘Bird Gardening. How to Attract Birds’ was written when enthusiasts were beginning to enjoy having birds in their gardens; however, few knew the best way of supplying their needs as to food and nesting. His book gave advice as to how to attract birds, how and when to erect nesting boxes, and he even covered the topic of feeding birds ‘all seasons’ (all year round) and wrote about the difficulties of protecting birds from cats, squirrels, and other predators.
What even James Bond’s boss (‘M’) couldn’t possibly have guessed in the 50s and 60s – even though many of his observations were prescient - was that bird gardening would become so popular, with around 50% of the population choosing to provide supplementary bird feed in their gardens. It’s also become a year-round pastime, with more and more enthusiasts electing to feed throughout the summer months because ‘natural food’ is in short supply and there are so many mouths to feed. What he did spot, though, was that there is a right and wrong way to go about bird gardening and that the wrong way would inevitably affect birds’ welfare.
We hope he would be pleased that today’s generation of garden birds are presented with a plethora of bird diets and treats that have moved on nutritionally and scientifically since the 60s.
Our high-energy peanuts and sunflower hearts are bursting with calories, high-fat suet offerings of all shapes and sizes – even no-mess bird seed mixes, where all the seeds and husks have been carefully removed to leave the goodness intact for the convenience of garden birders so that they no longer have to sweep up waste husks. These high-quality seeds and more feature in our new bird garden catalogue - aptly titled ‘Let’s welcome the next generation…’
Our new spring and summer catalogue is on the way to you if you’re on our mailing list. Otherwise, please click here to order your copy and create a bird garden you (and James Bond's boss, 'M', Maxwell Knight) can be proud of.