by Hannah Light
When it comes to birds, make sure that any bird baths you have are free from ice and that the water is clean. Look out for blackbirds, robins and thrushes in particular and make sure that all bird tables are scrubbed once a week. Birds are not the cleanest of animals and carry quite a lot of parasites, so it’s really important that you either wear gloves or wash your hands immediately after cleaning the tables, baths and feeders. In terms of food, birds love a range of things to eat such as sunflower hearts, fruit and nuts, and as we’re still in Winter it’s a good idea to hang out a few suet balls as these are full of fat and slowly release energy.
You can feed other animals that may frequent your garden such as badgers, hedgehogs and squirrels with a mixture of nuts, oats and fruits. Hedgehogs love oats, nuts, honey and insects which you can buy as a ‘cake’ from any garden centre. Remember DO NOT leave out bread and milk for hedgehogs, as this is a common mistake and is very bad for them. Squirrels, true to form, love nuts - large sunflower seeds, peanuts, hazelnuts, pine nuts and maize are their foods of choice, but they do not eat wheat products. If you can get your hands on nuts that are still in their shells this will provide the squirrels with a challenge! Peanuts are a badger’s favourite, so spread some of those around – this will also hopefully dissuade them from digging up your lawn!
If you have any unwanted bricks and stone around then creating a rockery is a good idea – not only will it add structure to your garden, it will provide shelter and a habitat for its smallest inhabitants. This will also help your larger inhabitants, as a plentiful supply of insects means a plentiful supply of birds. Also if you have fruit trees in your garden that have dropped all of their fruit, leave it on the ground, as birds love to eat fruit at this time of year. The sweet smell will also attract insects.
Coppicing trees, meaning sawing their trunks back to stumps, is a good idea during the early months of year as this provides shelter for smaller plants and is a good breeding ground for insects such as butterflies as we approach the Spring. It is also worthwhile to buy a bee box, providing somewhere for bees to rest and makes it more likely that they will frequent your garden.
As your garden comes back to life it is a good idea to buy a compost bin – these are not only cost-effective as you don’t need to spend money buying compost, but it will help keep your garden clear of debris as you get stuck in to clearing up the detritus of the Winter months. Planting native and non-native deciduous trees will benefit your garden and the animals that inhabit it as they produce berries and provide a splash of colour to an otherwise grey scene.
So, as the Winter months drag themselves along spare a thought for the animals that have to live outside – stock up on dried fruit, nuts and suet balls and don’t forget to nip outside every now and again to make sure that your birds can drink from the baths. Your hard work is guaranteed to pay off, and you’ll be left with a garden that is teeming with wildlife, even if it doesn’t look like it!