Helping Wildlife Through Winter

You can make a significant contribution to supporting wildlife during the cold winter months from doing something as simple as putting food out in the garden. Helping wildlife visiting your garden in winter is also a great way to watch the birds and animals at close quarters.

These tasks we have laid out below will help turn your garden into a wildlife haven, in turn increasing the diversity of creatures that survive and thrive. Garden birds in particular benefit from feeding all year round, but winter is the time to provide food with high-fat content to keep them warm.

Helping Birds

  • Put fat blocks in wire feeders. Balls in plastic nets are not recommended as certain birds like woodpeckers can get their tongues caught.
  • Alternate different foods to entice a range of birds; peanut for starlings, insects for tits and berries for finches.
  • Put out finely chopped bacon rind and grate cheese for small birds such as wrens.
  • Provide birds with a grain mix, seeds and nuts, so they maintain a balanced diet.
  • Sparrows, finches and nuthatches enjoy prising seeds from sunflower heads.
  • Use wire mesh feeders for peanuts and seed feeders for other seeds. Get a range of feeders for your garden that can be used by different birds. Feeders also keep pigeons and squirrels
  • Scatter breadcrumbs and food on the grass to encourage ground feeding birds like robins.
  • Thrushes and blackbirds favour fruit, so scatter raisins, overripe apple pieces and song-bird mixes on the ground.
  • Put the various food mentioned above out for them every day. Food is hard to come by in winter, so providing them with food helps their survival.

Blue tits on a feeder in winter

Looking After Other Creatures

  • Check bonfires and woodpiles for sheltering or hibernating animals such as hedgehogs and toads before they are lit.
  • Melt a hole in the ice on ponds to allow wildlife to drink and enter and exit the water. Fill a saucepan with hot water and set it on the ice until a hole has been melted, or leave a ball in the water, which you can take out when it freezes. Hitting or cracking the ice can harm wildlife.
  • Be careful when turning compost heaps as animals such as frogs and toads stay there as compost is warm when decaying.
  • Provide a shallow dish of water on the ground, benefitting ground-dwelling wildlife and birds and drink.
  • Make an insect hotel in a sheltered position using small, hollowed logs and sticks, such as bamboo, bundled together. Wintering ladybirds and lacewings will find this useful.
  • In late winter, clean out bird boxes, so they are ready for new nests in spring. Check there are not birds sheltering there beforehand.
  • Leave healthy herbaceous and hollow-stemmed until spring, as they can provide homes for wintering insects.
  • Pile up fallen leaves to make a hedgehog house, leaving a dish of water and some food nearby, until they stop taking it.

Hedgehog in a leaf pile in winter

Other Garden Visitors

  • Put out cheese, boiled potatoes, chicken bones, bread and fat scraps around dusk for foxes.
  • Grey squirrels do not hibernate and cache food during autumn to eat when food is scarce. Offer hazelnuts, walnuts and almonds, plus chopped apples, beans, carrots or spinach.
  • Badgers have a tough time finding their favourite food of earthworms in winter. Leave out lightly cooked meats, cheese, peanuts and fruit.
  • Grow nectar-rich plants around a pond in winter, as the plants and pond attract insect in the evening for bats to feed.

Keep In Mind

  • Do not leave out large quantities of food each evening to avoid your wildlife guests to become dependent.
  • Try growing winter flowering plants for any bees or butterflies that come out in winter, so they have a food source.

Get your men’s country clothing and ladies country clothing on, head into the garden, and start preparing it to turn it into a wildlife haven! Do you have other tips on how you help wildlife in your garden? Let us know via social media.

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