With the coldest months of winter fast approaching it’s this time of year that we can give a helping hand to our wildlife. Frozen ground and water makes life difficult for our bird wildlife and doing a few simple things helps them enormously. One thing is to ensure a supply of clean drinking and bathing water. So if you have a bird bath do regular checks on it to ensure that clean water is available and not frozen over. It might seem an odd thing to ensure due to the extreme wet conditions we’ve had but a sudden cold snap can quickly make life difficult for our birds.
A plentiful supply of food will also go a long way to help the survival of many birds during the winter. We all enjoy seeing the birds feeding in our garden so now is the time for payback. Foods with a high fat or oil content such as sunflower or niger seeds and nuts are always welcome but it’s important to ensure the feeders are clean and any mouldy foodstuffs are disposed of as these can pose a health risk to birds. If considering a bird table then one with a roof or some sort of cover will be preferable as this will still make the food available should snow fall. Should you already have a bird table without a roof then placing it near a hedge or brush pile will offer some protection against wind and potential predators.
Whatever bird food is used is should be kept in a cool dry place and should last for months if done so.But what if your bird feeders are being used by uninvited guests? Squirrels are ingenious in their attempts to gain a free meal but there are options to keep them at bay. Squirrel baffles can be used or perhaps temporary fencing can be erected to keep predators and unwelcome wildlife at bay.
Winter is a time we might well decide to do that clear up in our garden by cutting back those straggly shrubs and tidying up the borders. This can still be done but do leave some berries and fruit available as this all goes to help.
Finally when we emerge from winter into spring we can continue to help our native wildlife. If you are able to a birdbox is great thing to put up as the time for rearing young will soon be here. Also if a fence needs replacing due to damage by winter winds then do ensure there are available gaps at the bottom of the fence to enable roaming hedgehogs to move about. All too often gardens are effectively sealed off by fencing that inhibits wildlife searching for food; after all no gardener should discourage a hedgehog from helping out with slugs! And if there is space in your garden then perhaps you could give it over to a wildflower patch. This will bring in butterflies and other insects whilst bringing a wonderful coloured diversity to the garden. If we can just do a few of these things then it would go a long way to helping our wildlife in a time when many once common species of birds are now in serious decline and in return your reward will be a vibrant living garden.
Paul Freshwater (Ranger)