If you have visited Strathbeg over the last few weeks you’ll have noticed the leaves turn from a golden hue and fall from the trees, and the thousands of pink-footed geese and whooper swans make their arrival.

As the bright colours of summer fade away there are certain things you can do in your garden to ensure you are giving nature a home as winter draws in.

While bird tables and feeders are used by our feathered friends all year round, it is especially important to ensure they are kept topped up throughout autumn and winter when their natural food sources are scarcer. High energy peanuts and fat balls will be particularly appreciated. Make sure to regularly clean your feeders to prevent disease spreading. Planting native species in your garden such as crab apple, holly, elder or hawthorn, which produce fruit and berries, creates a natural food supply over winter.

Leaving fallen leaves provide shelter and protection for many invertebrate species. If this isn’t possible, moving leaves to piles in the garden is better than getting rid of them. Similarly, refraining from removing seed heads from flowers creates ideal places for over wintering insects.

These seed heads also provide additional food sources for farmland birds and this is something that we implement on a large scale on the reserve.  In the summer months we plant large crops of wild bird cover including barley, oats and phacelia which attracts a wide range of pollinators. Towards the end of summer when the flowers die back, large areas of seed heads are left which act like giant bird tables over winter.  

While you might not have space in your garden to plant entire crops, small changes can make big differences and leaving the heads on a few plants can make an impact. Planting teasel in your garden, for example, which is a very striking plant (even more so once the flowers have died back!) is much loved by goldfinches in the winter.

If you’re looking for inspiration to make your garden more wildlife friendly, you could always take a stroll around the reserves wildlife garden where you’ll see lots of different ways that you can encourage nature into your garden!

Sally Dunbar, Reserves Intern