We’re into the heart of winter and as habitats are under threat, our climate changes, and we humans encroach more and more upon the natural world, there’s lots we can be doing to help our garden wildlife get through the tough winter months in the UK. Here’s 10 things you can do for wildlife this winter.
1. Provide Water
Providing water for birds and mammals to drink is a simple but great way to help the wildlife in your garden. Bird baths are perfect but if you have a tall one then make sure you provide a low water source for small mammals. If there’s a cold snap, with sub zero temperatures, then it’s really good to make sure there’s unfrozen water available and if you have a pond then gently melt an area if possible.
2. Freshen up Feeders
Give your bird feeders a clean and top them up with high energy bird feeds. Cleaning feeders can help to reduce the risk of disease and infections spreading among wild garden birds. Pull on a pair of rubber gloves, fill up a bucket with hot soapy water and give them a good scrub down. It might seem like a pain but it’s really satisfying seeing birds coming to a freshly cleaned feeder!
3. Leave it Wild
Create hibernacula – piles of logs, stones and loose vegetation where small creatures like newts and others can spend the winter in torpor. As the leaves start to come down in autumn then rake some up into a corner, amongst some old logs and they’ll provide welcome shelter for wildlife to bed down in.
4. Clean up Nest Boxes
Winter is the time to empty bird boxes of old nesting material and give them a once over. It can be a fascinating thing to do to reveal the beautiful creations that birds make to raise their young in. You may choose to wear gloves to prevent any nest lice and fleas from hopping on to you. After the 1st of February you should avoid disturbing nest boxes so get this done before the end of January! Read Simon’s guide to clearing out nest boxes.
5. Plant Wildflower Seeds
Autumn is a great time to plant some wildflower seeds in your garden. Pull up any weeds and create a fine till then just scatter some seeds on. They’ll emerge in spring and provide a flush of colour, nectar and pollen.
6. Leave Out Old Apples
Resist the temptation to tidy up old apples from the lawn. If you leave them out they can provide a valuable food source for winter thrushes and blackbirds.
7. Feed up the Hedgehogs
It’s critical for hedgehogs to arrive at winter hibernation time at a good weight so they can ride out the coldest months without emerging for food. As well as leaving out a water source for them you can provide hedgehogs with dried biscuits or wet food. Avoid milk as this can make them ill. Take a look at our mammal food selection for some ideas.
8. Roosting Pouches
Roosting pouches can be placed in hedges and bushes to provide welcome shelter overnight for small birds in the worst weather. Modern houses just don’t have the nooks, cavities and established foliage that birds need to overnight in, so you can help by providing some extra shelter. Our Robin Winter Care Pack contains a lovely roosting space for robins in winter which can become a nester in spring.
9. Volunteer for Wildlife
If you can spare any time then volunteering for your local Wildlife Trust can be very rewarding and they do tremendous work for wildlife. There’s always a lot of essential scrub clearance and other groundwork to be done over winter, you’ll meet like-minded people and learn lots about wildlife!
10. Get Outside with Wildlife
Despite appearances there’s lots going on winter so getting out and seeing this secret world is a great way to embrace it and help it! You could watch the sunrise (it’s much easier to get up in time during the winter!), listen out for territorial tawny owls setting up their home boundaries or hear foxes courting with unearthly screams. Share these adventures with children and we can keep on growing the nation’s love for our wildlife.