With Jack frost visiting more frequently and winter seeming to have taken a firm hold, its easy to forget the wildlife that we all enjoy whilst in our gardens during the warmer months.
By putting out additional food, gardeners, bird and wildlife lovers can make a real difference to support our wildlife over the winter. It is also a great way to watch and enjoy our wildlife even in the smallest of gardens or from a balcony.
Quick Facts; suitable for-encouraging wildlife, timing-late autumn (as soon as the first hard frosts arrive) until mid-spring, difficulty-easy & and a great way to involve children and bring some added colour into the garden this time of year.
We have put together some recommendations to help your garden become a wildlife haven and help increase the diversity of creatures that can not only survive but will hopefully thrive this winter.
Garden birds in particular benefit from feeding all year round, but winter is a time to provide foodstuffs with high fat content to help keep them warm. Feed regularly so that birds will not waste vital energy visiting your garden when there is no food.
- Help birds in winter by placing fat balls and blocks in wire cages or feeders, no-net fat balls are better!
- Create your own fat blocks by using unwanted cooking fat, adding nuts, seed and berries to the mix. This can be done by pouring into an empty coconut shell or an unwanted container, be sure to add a piece of sting at the start of the process.
- Add finely chopped bacon rind and grated cheese to your bird table to attract smaller birds such as wrens
- Although fat is important, do also add a grain mix to help balance their diets
- Sparrows, finches and nuthatches enjoy prising open seed heads of sunflower seed
- Goldfinches enjoy niger seed, special feeders are available for this to save wastage
- Feeders placed just of the ground will attract robins and dunnocks
- Thrushes and blackbird favor fruit, you can scatter over-ripe apples, raisins and song-bird mixes on the ground for them
- Consider planting berry and fruiting trees and shrubs such as Malus, Cotoneaster and Pyracantha to fill gaps in hedges or the shrub bays
Looking after other creatures
- Check bonfires before they are lit for sheltering hedgehogs, toads and frogs
- Melt a hole in the ice on ponds to allow wildlife to drink and enter or exit the water, do not crack the ice as this sends shockwaves through the water that can harm wildlife
- Be careful when turning compost heaps as these can often contain toads and frogs
- Provide a shallow dish of water on the ground, this will encourage other animals other than birds
- Make a bug hotel this will help with over wintering ladybirds
- In late winter, clean out bird boxes ready for new nests in the spring
- Leave hollow-stemmed plants unpruned until early spring, these can provide homes for insects