Helping wildlife in winter
PUBLISHED: 11:12 24 February 2014 | UPDATED: 11:12 24 February 2014
Photographs © Copyright Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust
The Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust offers gardening tips to help our winter wildlife
While this winter has been the wetest in recorded history, as the nights start drawing out in February, temperatures remain low, especially at night, and there is the risk of frost and snow. This is one of the toughest months of all for our local wildlife.
We can all make a difference to help animals at this time of year, but the important thing is to understand the needs of wildlife – primarily food and shelter. If you are lucky enough to have a garden or a balcony, this is the place to start.
Feed the birds.
Birds need a range of food provided in different ways, especially in early spring when supplies of winter berries are running out. Food provided to birds should be kept clean and fresh. Water is just as important, so consider creating a pond or water feature and remember to make sure birdbaths stay ice-free – a floating ball will do the trick.
An apple a day.
If the ground is frozen, birds such as blackbirds and thrushes will be unable to dig for worms and other soil-living invertebrates. Most natural fruits will have been consumed by this time of year, therefore it’s worthwhile providing some alternatives. A great way to use up old apples and pears is to slice them in half and spear them on to the branches of shrubs, cut side up. The fresh fruit can be a magnet for blackbirds, song thrushes and occasional fieldfares, as well as blue, coal and great tits.
Natural food sources.
Early flowering plants are a vital food source for insects in early spring. Also think about planting native shrubs or trees such as holly, hawthorn or crab apple in your garden. Berries will provide natural bird food and shrubs and trees provide the prefect place to nest and roost.
Make a home for mini beasts.
Create a leaf pile in a quiet corner of the garden or just leave an area of grass uncut. By giving invertebrates a place like this to spend the winter you will also provide ground-feeding birds with somewhere to forage.