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Helping Wildlife Through the Winter

Winter can be a rather dormant time in your garden but it doesn't have to be. It can be surprisingly easy to help the wildlife in the garden over the crisp cold months of the year. We have accumulated some tips and tricks for gardening over the winter which we hope might provide you with some inspiration!

Attracting birds to your garden:

For birds, especially small ones, winter is a very challenging time of year to survive. The ground is too hard to get at worms or grubs and there are limited daylight hours where they can actually search for food. A great way to attract birds to your garden in the winter while also helping them to survive is through fat balls or blocks.

Placing fat balls or blocks in wire cages or suspending them on a piece of string can help birds out during the winter. Avoid using plastic nets as some birds can get caught in these.

You can buy fat balls/blocks from most garden centres, or why not try your hand at making your own? By melting suet into natural moulds such as shells or logs, with birdseed, you can easily make your own feed for the birds that may visit your garden. The Natural History Museum has a great recipe that you could use, click here for the link. 

Although fat is important for a birds diet, especially during the winter, fibre, protein and unsaturated fats through seeds and nuts will provide a balanced diet. For a full list of foods that you can put out to help the birds in winter, click here.

Providing water for wildlife:

Try to keep your pond uncovered this winter. This will be an important place for birds and other wildlife to drink and stay hydrated. This is important this time of year as other means of water are far more scarce.

Ponds freezing over, however, can prevent birds and other wildlife from getting to the water. A frozen surface can also be harmful to the creatures living in your pond as well. Running water can help keep a pond from freezing over in milder winter weather, so keeping your pond pump on will help with this. In more extreme conditions, you can use a pond heater to keep the water from freezing over. For more information on this, click here. Alternatively, if you don't have a pump or pond heater, you can quickly melt a hole in the pond's surface by carefully placing a pan of boiling water on the surface. But make sure you don't pour any boiling water over the ice as this can harm the wildlife in the pond!

Alternatively, if you don't have a pond, you can place a birdbath or even a shallow dish in your garden. You can put a small plastic ball on the surface of the water to help to stop it from freezing over as it would move with the wind. But make sure you clean this out regularly as water left to stagnate can carry diseases from faeces, rotting debris and mould which can harm the birds. There is a helpful article here on how to avoid the dangers birdbaths can pose to birds.

These bodies of water for the birds, no matter how big, will also be important for keeping the birds clean. Birds need to keep their feathers in healthy condition and they need to remain coated in natural oils. During the winter, this is crucial to keep them warm.

Managing your leaves:

Rake up your leaves into a few piles at the edge of your garden. This will create a habitat for the winter wildlife that comes into your garden. Be sure not to leave these piles on your lawn as this will be detrimental to the grass, but rather at the side of your lawn as this will do wonders for wildlife this winter.

Attracting wildlife with the right food for them:

Providing food for wildlife at a time of year where food is scarce for them will be a welcome relief for them. Here are some ideas on what to feed your garden visitors:

Foxes: Place some cheese, boiled potatoes and fat trimmings at the edges of your garden at dusk for our four-legged friends.

Hedgehogs: Hedgehogs are fans of minced meat, and even scrambled eggs. Be cautious of leaving milk out for them as this can cause stomach upset in young hedgehogs.

Badgers: During winter, a badger's favourite food of earthworms are hard for them to come by. Small amounts of cheese, fruit and peanuts will be great for the badgers visiting your garden.

For more information, click here.


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