Focus On: Wildlife in Winter
17 January 2018
Though much of nature is fast asleep, some of our wildlife are wide awake. Winter can be a testing time for many garden wildlife so if you want to encourage wildlife into your garden at this time, here are some top tips to ensure that it can be a safe haven throughout this month:
- Food is the main source of help at the moment. Birds especially will struggle for food during these harsher months so keep putting plenty out for them.
- We recommend placing bird feed blocks or balls in wire cages rather than plastic nets.
- Birds benefit from food with high fat content in winter to help keep them warm (Although fat is important, do also provide a grain mix or nuts to maintain a balanced diet).
- Alternate different recipes to entice a range of birds; peanut cakes for starlings, insect cakes for tits, berry cakes for finches and finely chopped bacon rind and grated cheese for small birds such as wrens. Thrushes and blackbirds favour fruit so scatter over-ripe apples, raisins and song-bird mixes on the ground for them.
- If you do provide feed, do so regularly so that the birds do not waste vital energy visiting your garden when there is no food.
- Feed placed on a wire mesh held just off the ground will entice ground-feeding birds such as robins and dunnocks.
- Ensure bird baths and ponds remain topped up and not frozen. To prevent freezing, either drain or place a small ball in them.
- If your birdbath or ponds do freeze, make sure that you melt a hole in the ice to allow the wildlife to drink, and enter and exit the water. Fill a sauce pan with hot water and sit it on the ice until a hole has been melted. Do not hit or crack ice as this can send shockwaves through the water that harms wildlife.
- Be careful when you turn compost heaps. As these are often warm, they can be the winter resort of frogs, toads and other animals.
- Provide a shallow dish or container of water at ground level. This will benefit other garden wildlife that needs to drink.
- Put up nesting boxes for birds and make or buy an insect or bug hotel and put up in a sheltered position. Overwintering ladybirds and lacewings will also find this useful.
- In late winter, clean out bird boxes so they are ready for new nests in spring.
- Leave herbaceous and hollow-stemmed plants unpruned until early spring. These can provide homes for overwintering insects.
(*some content sourced from: https://www.rhs.org.uk/advice/profile?PID=382)