Caring for garden wildlife this winter
Winter can be a harsh time for birds and animals. This is why many simply prefer to curl up and hibernate during colder months. It’s a time when food is scarce and freezing temperatures make life trickier for most creatures. So, it’s an ideal time to think about helping our furry and feathered friends. This is a lot easier than many realise. The main things to remember to help more birds and animals survive cooler climates is to provide them with a little food, water and shelter.
Hanging nut and seed feeders from branches is a great place to start. Birds will of course eat food scattered on the ground. But remember, this also makes the food easier for other creatures to reach. This may result in birds not getting their fair share, not least because they often cannot compete against other animals.
A bird bath is also a great idea. Birds will not only drink from it, they will also use it for bathing and preening themselves, which simply means taking care of their feathers.
Because they use bird baths for all kinds of things, it’s important to change the water regularly, so it’s clean enough to drink.
Other creatures also appreciate a little help during cold spells. Unfortunately, many hedgehogs don’t even survive their first winter. They are prone to waking up from hibernation, whereupon they will go off and burn valuable fat reserves foraging for food. You can help them by placing some dog or cat food near where they hibernate, so they can access it quickly and return to their winter slumbers.
Squirrels don’t hibernate at all. You can bolster the nuts they store by providing a bowl of hazelnuts, walnuts and almonds. Squirrels also enjoy chopped up apple, carrots as well as beans and spinach.
Badgers have a fondness for earthworms, which means their lives can get quite tricky when the ground freezes over. You can help them out by providing cold cooked meats, cheeses, unsalted peanuts and fruits.
Frogs, newts and toads
And don’t forget about our amphibians, especially if you have a pond in your garden. Frogs, newts and toads are cold-blooded creatures, so they become inactive during wintertime, when they will spend their time in burrows, crevices, under logs and in leaf piles. Some favour being under water, on the bottom of ponds.
You can help prevent ponds from freezing over completely by floating a tennis ball, or similar, on the surface. Frogs emerge on warmer days, when they will search around nearby to feed on insects, including flies, mosquitoes, moths and dragonflies. Newts concentrate on food found in ponds. And, while toads also eat insects, they are just as happy to devour newts and small frogs!
It’s great to lend a helping hand to the creatures living in your garden during the coldest time of year. But it is also worth remembering that they are wild creatures and, for the most part, are perfectly adapted to looking after themselves. Therefore, don’t leave out large amounts of food every evening. Your feral guests would only become dependent on your handouts. Only provide small portions of the appropriate foods when weather conditions become very harsh. At other times, let garden creatures do what they do best, by fending for themselves.
Look after your garden’s wildlife the Redrow way. Provide food and shelter during very cold snaps.