Happy new year!
2013 has started off much as 2012 finished with plenty of the wet stuff around. However don't let a bit of mud and rain stop you from doing a few bits around the garden to help out the wildlife. I managed to brave the conditions and got out for a while to do some pruning, hopefully to encourage thicker growth this spring to create conditions ideal for nesting birds. I bundled some of the cuttings up and placed them in the borders where I hope to attract in a range of invertebrates. As tempting as it is to cut back the dead herbaceous and flowering plant stems try to leave them until March as they may be sheltering some wintering minibeasts and may also provide seed food for some garden birds like the goldfinch. Check to see if any of your hedges need a trim now that most have ceased to bear fruit or berries, if you have noticed any that still have berries on them keep a close eye as waxwings will be scouring the land looking for any berries and can turn up anywhere. Most of the hawthorn hedges, rowans and hollies will have already been hit by the birds leaving the later ripening ornamental species like cotoneaster and pyracantha that are planted around our parks, gardens and towns as likely places to spot these stunning visitors.
One thing you might want to take a closer look at in January is ivy. At this time of year ivy can be a lifesaver for birds as it's purple to black berries should just be ripening as most of the other berry crops are coming to an end. Most of the ivy plants you will see across the UK will produce berries although the wild type dark leaved hedera helix is usually the best for berry production, the variegated varieties don't seem to deliver as good a crop in my experience. In the queue of birds that eat ivy berries are woodpigeons, blackbirds, greenfinches and starlings to name just a few. It's also likely to provide birds with a safe roosting habitat during the long winter nights due to the dense foliage.
Chris Shields (rspb-images.com)
With all this water around creating a pond in your garden might not be the first thing on your mind but January is actually a good time to think about creating one. Not only will it create a wildlife attraction for drinking and bathing birds but all kinds of aquatic and semi-aquatic life can be attracted into the garden. A pond for wildlife doesn't have to be huge, small water features can be just as popular with wildlife so if you are looking for a new project in the garden for the new year please consider a pond. We've got some tips to help you here and Pond Conservation have also got some great information here. Whilst it's pretty mild and the soil is soft it's definitely something to think about! It's worth watching ponds for activity, frogs have spawned very early in spring in recent years and a mild January may get them stirring.
After Christmas you may have some left over food items that you just can't face eating! If you are unable to face any more pastry, Christmas cake, mild cheeses or mixed nuts (as long as they are not salted) then all of these items can be left out for the birds.
Don't forget to sign up for our Big Garden Birdwatch survey later this month!
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