IT'S quite amazing just how much wildlife is supported within our gardens.
Even the smallest plot can be considered home by thousands of creatures.
Perhaps it's our feathered friends that have captured both our hearts, and at this time of year our sympathy, as they go about their everyday business right under our noses — survival.
Making your garden more attractive to birds will not only meet with the approval of some of our most loved and sometimes endangered species, but will prove to be very rewarding for you too.
While it's not just a case of sticking a few nuts out on a table, it's neither difficult nor expensive to make a real difference to the feathered fraternity by incorporating a feature or two that will really pull the birds into your back yard.
Your garden can indeed offer a very extensive menu to its bird clientele, and they all have their own preferences depending on the species and what's in season.
Blackbirds, for example, need a plentiful supply of fruit this time of year, while tits seek seeds, nuts and catkins.
This is not to mention all the insects, buds and blossom birds seek during the rest of the year.
This already opens up a vast array of plants you can choose from to really make a difference.
It's the berrying plants that tend to be the more obvious choices, and this is no bad thing for they can provide a supply of food during the most crucial period of the year.
Many native plants such as hawthorn, bramble and ivy will provide ample supplies enjoyed by many native birds, and they will of course grow almost anywhere.
These days however there are many non-native plants that provide both plentiful fruit and a more spectacular contribution to our garden display.
Trusty favourites include the cotoneaster and pyracanthas, famed for their versatility as well as their bright fruit.
Most berberis, also very versatile fellows, offer many different species and variety of berries, and can grace the garden with their rich, colourful foliage.
Mainly evergreens, these plants will provide valuable shelter and safety.
Catkins are often much overlooked, both as a food source for birds and an exciting garden feature, as they are usually borne on large trees such as alders, or alternatively comparatively unspectacular plants such as the native willows found in hedgerows.
Birches, however, will not only provide many birds with an added food source but also look stunning with their brilliant white bark.
If space is limited you could do worse than plant the much sought-after "contorted hazel" (Corylus avellena "Contorta"), a spectacle of twisted stems dripping in catkins.
Finally, it is suprising just how many plants attract birds indirectly through supporting one of their vital food sources — insects.
For example, a butterfly bush will become hatching ground to butterfly eggs, the larvae of which provide a gourmet meal to several birds later this year.