The nights are drawing in and there’s a chill in the air.. which can only mean one thing. Winter is almost upon us! As we crank up our thermostats and don our winter coats, Laura ponders over the pressures wildlife face over the colder months and what we can do to help.
As humans we have become quite resourceful to combat the harsher temperatures of winter. We light up dark evenings, heat our homes and wear thermals. But for the wildlife around us, winter can become a matter of life or death. Without enough food or water, or without sufficient shelter, our wildlife favourites may not survive.
But fear not! Just like us, the wildlife around us has found some ingenious ways to stay safe during the colder months. Squirrels spend much of the Autumn hiding stores of acorns and other nuts, to dig up and eat during Winter. Hedgehogs start hibernating in late Autumn and stay this way until Spring. They lower their body temperature and heart rate to conserve energy during this time of ‘deep sleep’. Some species like the pink footed goose migrate to warmer locations to leave the harsh winters of Iceland and Greenland. We are lucky enough to have some of those pink footed geese over-wintering at Buckenham Marshes.
While nature has its own tricks to survive winter, it’s important that we help the wildlife in our gardens during this colder time. Here are just a few ways you can help:
Food: I’ve previously mentioned how easy it is to feed the birds in your garden, but during the winter alternative sources of food like fat balls are a welcome treat. These can be bought relatively cheaply (see the RSPB online store) or easily made at home. DIY birdseed fat balls is a great activity for families and can be made as simple or complex as desired. Simple round fat balls on string are perfect, or, if you are feeling imaginative – why not create fantastic Christmas themed birdseed-baubles!
A DIY snowman birdseed treat.
Water: Wildlife will always appreciate a supply of water in your garden, but especially so in winter. Whether you have a pond, a fancy ornamental bird bath or simply a tray of water, it will make all the difference for your garden wildlife this winter. Be mindful that your water might freeze if the weather gets particularly cold. During times like these, wildlife will appreciate you the most! A great tip to keep your water source from freezing, is to place a tennis ball (or similar) into the water. The gentle movement of the ball in the water will stop the surface from freezing over.
Shelter: Gone are the days of a perfectly neat and trimmed garden – by keeping a part of your garden rustic, you create a wide selection of shelter spots for wildlife to keep warm in. Leaf piles for example are a great place for hibernating animals and small piles of logs and sticks are a great shelter for insects and other minibeasts. Though, please do check for hibernating animals before moving compost heaps or burning bonfires – frogs, hedgehogs and even bats, newts and toads might be sheltering there.
So, how you have some ideas – let’s get helping the nature in our gardens this Winter!
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