Helping wildlife through the winter

Tuesday 14th November 2017

© Darin Smith

During the winter, it can be easy to forget that outside our warm, central heated homes are thousands of birds and mammals struggling to survive the cold. However, there are ways you can help.

As winter approaches and the cold creeps in, the struggle begins for much of our local wildlife. When temperatures drop, so do survival rates – without sufficient fat reserves to keep warm the chill of winter is a death sentence, and many birds and mammals do not live to see the joys of spring.

Some species, such as dormice, bats and hedgehogs, wisely choose to sleep through the entire season, and stay safely hidden within leaf piles, tree bark, compost heaps and mud. They emerge from hibernation when the air is warm and the land fruitful, picking up where they left off last autumn.

Where sleeping through the winter isn’t an option, hoarding can be equally effective. Squirrels and jays collect nuts throughout the autumn and bury them around their woodland homes, creating lots of little pantries that they can return to when food is scarce.

There are a number of clever survival strategies adopted by wildlife to withstand the cold, but sadly they are not always successful. There are, however, a great many sure-fire ways that you can help– here are Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust’s top tips for getting your garden wildlife through the winter.

Feed the birds

Keeping warm in low temperatures requires a lot of energy, so making high fat foods easily available for garden birds is a great way to help them.

Fat blocks are available to buy at most garden centres and pet shops – place them in wire cages and watch the birds gather around. Fat balls in plastic nets are not recommended as some birds can get their tongues caught on them.

If you’re feeling crafty you could even make your own! Simply melt suet into moulds (coconut shells or logs with holes drilled in make excellent containers) then, once they have cooled and solidified, leave them somewhere high up in your garden for the birds to find.

Try different recipes to entice a variety of birds; add peanuts for starlings, insects for tits and berries for finches.

Look before you light

To a sleepy hedgehog, an unlit bonfire can look like the perfect place to hunker down for the winter. Always be sure to check bonfires before you light them – there could be any number of animals sheltering and hibernating in there, including frogs and toads.

Provide water for wildlife

Water can be hard to come by when ponds and bird baths freeze over. Leaving out a shallow dish of fresh water at ground level will provide a refreshing rest-stop for a host of garden wildlife.

Tagged with: People and Nature