It might be springlike at the moment but winter has a habit of biting back with a vengeance – just think back to the Beast from the East in the UK last year! With this in mind, here’s a short post about how to help wildlife in winter.
Winter can be a hard time for wildlife. With plummeting temperatures and a lack of food, it is difficult for many animals, most of which will be in hibernation for that reason. But there are still things you can do for those hibernating and those who are not, to help make their winter a little bit easier.
If you have wildlife in your garden and you want to know how you can do your bit in the cold winter, here is some advice from the wildlife experts at Nature Spy.
Let it Grow
People tend to neglect their gardens in the winter, and that isn’t such a bad thing. Letting piles of leaves accumulate, bushes to slightly overgrow and brushwood lying around give wildlife a place to nest, shelter or hibernate. Leaving nature undisturbed in your garden can give animals a helping hand.
As the winter weather is well underway, plants and trees have shed everything that is unnecessary, in order to conserve energy and it’s the same with lots of animals. Letting Mother Nature take over your garden is the best way for you to help those animals stay safe throughout their hibernation. Plus, there is nothing stopping you from creating areas for them yourself, by gathering fallen leaves or a pile of wood.
A Little Ice-Breaker
This is for those of you who have a pond in your garden. Although some animals may enjoy a frozen pond, like the small rabbit that won’t fall in, it is bad for the fish or frogs living inside it. This is because when the cold temperatures cause the top layer of water to freeze over, toxic gasses can build up and kill anything below.
The solution is to create a hole in the top of your pond. But you must be careful not to bash and break a hole as this can do more harm than good. It is better to place a pan of boiling water into the pond and melt away a hole. Creating a hole will also give animals a place to drink fresh water.
Bug Your Plants
When you think about garden wildlife, most people think about mammals. But not to be forgotten, are the insects of your garden. Some of these little animals will need a place to nestle, and herbaceous plants are best.
If you have any herbaceous plants in your garden such as Columbine, larkspur or oriental poppies, be sure to leave these plants unpruned throughout the winter. This can go a long way for those bugs. If not, you can always buy or build or bug hotel or a butterfly box, to give them a place to call home for the winter.
Animals who don’t hibernate still need to find food supplies during winter, which can get increasingly difficult. So, putting out small amounts of food to help them along their way is an important thing to do.
Birds need your help most of all, so you may find it useful to leave out a bird feeder full of food. Put your bird feeder somewhere quiet but open for birds to see. You may also want to think about placing it somewhere away from too much wind or rain, where birds still have a good view from it, so they can eat the food without worry.
Other animals you can leave little bits and pieces for are foxes, squirrels and badgers. They all prefer to eat different things, so it is important to do some research on the best things to leave out so that everyone’s happy.
Check Check Check
If you are lucky enough to have a compost heap, like many others, yours is likely to be home to a variety of critters throughout winter. With little frogs, worms and other animals hiding amongst the compost, you must make sure you’re careful when turning them.
You should also check any other areas in your garden which you plan on moving, for any wildlife that may be staying there. This includes leaf piles, log piles, and much more.
It can also be useful to leave a supply of fresh water in your garden. This will be good for birds as well as hibernating hedgehogs. Be sure to leave shallow bowls every day, which will encourage the animals to return to your garden. However, these animals are nocturnal, so you can always keep an eye on them by setting up a camera overnight like this one from Nature Spy Shop. These are not only useful in your garden but also all around the countryside near your home.
Once your garden is fully prepped to help the wildlife during winter, you might want to think about how the wildlife is going to get there. Animals like birds should have no problem, but critters like hedgehogs can struggle to get in and even get trapped.
Creating safe passage for animals to move in and out of your garden is an enormous help. Making sure there are gaps in your fence for hedgehogs, or even better, hedges instead of fences will help them pass through without trouble.
Time to Donate
If you’re feeling generous, you can always donate bits of food or money for shelters or your local animal conservation charities. This is a great option for those of you who see no wildlife in your garden or are unable to provide anything at home.
What Animals to Look Out For
Depending on where you live, the wildlife you can expect to see in the winter will differ. Since lots of animals hibernate this time of year, you may not get to see so many, unless you set up cameras for night-time foragers. If you’re lucky you may see foxes, badgers or squirrels, as well as a whole range of birds; all of which won’t be hibernating over winter. You may also get to peak at animals like hedgehogs, frogs and insects.
The more welcoming and nature-friendly you make your garden, the more wildlife you are likely to see. As we head into Spring, we hope to see more wildlife and nature blossoming in UK gardens and countryside all over.
About Nature Spy Shop
Nature Spy Shop is a non-profit organisation which sells a range of cameras and night vision equipment for monitoring and documenting wildlife. Focusing on research and education, Nature Spy Shop aims to involve local communities and businesses to do their bit for the conservation of wildlife.