This week, it feels like autumn is well and truly here and with Halloween and Bonfire Night just around the corner, we’re all wrapping ourselves and our pets up warm, turning on the central heating and starting to think ahead to the colder months.
It’s at this time of year that the wild animals that share our green spaces are also in need of a little extra care, so what creatures can we expect to find in our gardens, and what can we do to make our gardens and outdoor spaces a bit more welcoming for wildlife?
Wild birds can be a joy to watch, especially in the winter when it’s otherwise grey and dull outside. If you don’t have one already, consider investing in a bird feeder or bird table, to give garden birds a place to find food over the winter. Food sources for birds are becoming increasingly scarce in our urban landscapes, so putting out bird food in your garden will help to ensure that the next generation will also get to enjoy seeing wild birds outdoors. It also gives you and your family the chance to watch wild birds at close quarters.
Here at zooplus we have a great selection of wild bird food and mealworms that can be used in feeders as well as solid fat balls, including the lovely Lillebro seed heart in the picture above. Lillebro’s Husk-Free Wild Bird Feed can be fed year-round and does not leave any mess behind, making it suitable for patios and balconies too. Fat balls, finely chopped peanuts and dried mealworms provide essential fats and proteins that help birds to maintain their energy and strength when the temperature starts to drop.
A shallow bowl or tray can make a great bird bath, and it also gives wild birds somewhere to come for a drink. When you’re finding a place to put any bird baths or feeders, try to place it somewhere safe, out of reach of any local cats or other predators.
Hedgehogs usually hibernate between November and March, so if you are thinking of pruning hedges or other shrubs, consider leaving this until spring, as hedgehogs and other wildlife use thicker foliage as a safe place to hibernate. It is also a good idea to check for hedgehogs and other wildlife in any bonfires before they are lit. If you can, try to leave an area of your garden ‘wild’, with piles of logs, sticks, branches or leaves. These make a great nest for hedgehogs over the winter, and also provide a habitat for the insects, slugs, and worms that hedgehogs love to eat.
If you have a hedgehog living in your garden, you can encourage it to stay by taking the steps above, and also by leaving out a little minced meat, tinned cat or dog food, or crushed cat biscuits for them to eat. Hedgehogs prefer fresh water to drink (in a shallow bowl), but not milk, as it can make them very sick.
Frogs and Toads
If temperatures go below zero and you have a pond, try to make a hole in the ice to allow frogs, toads and other wildlife a means to get in and out of the water, and also allow other wildlife to drink. The RSPB recommends melting a hole in the ice with something like a hot saucepan, rather than breaking the ice, which can send shockwaves through the water and harm its inhabitants.
Amphibians sometimes use compost heaps as their home through the winter, so be careful if you are turning compost.
Enjoy turning your garden into a haven for wildlife this winter! Please feel free to comment below and let us know what interesting creatures you have found in your garden.