Winter weather can be tough on British wildlife. Whilst we snuggle down next to log fires and turn up the central heating, the wildlife population has no such luck.
Wildlife has many different strategies for surviving the cold weather – some migrate, some hibernate, and some just try to tough it out. But those that do stick with us have a hard time as the temperatures drop. Every hour of daylight becomes precious to wildlife for gathering food in the shortening days, particularly garden birds. With little food to go around, this is the perfect chance to take steps to make your garden more enticing to birds, providing food and shelter for when times get hard.
After long cold nights, garden birds will be ravenous and desperate to replace the energy used to stay warm so there is never a better time than now to start feeding the birds. Bird feeding stations are a great way to provide plenty of food for garden birds. With various hooks for feeders, a water bowl and a mesh feed tray, they are a fantastic all-in-one solution for small spaces. Once you start to put out food in your garden you will start to notice that birds are a creature of habit, so will return daily and will rely on you heavily in harsher weather. Make sure you top up feeders to stop them running out, and use fat balls and other suet based foods to give the birds a real boost in the early mornings. As well as wild bird seed mixes, other high energy foods which will attract a wider range of garden birds include; peanuts, niger seed, sunflower seed and mealworms. Adding kitchen scraps such as unsalted bacon rinds, raisins and hard cheese to your bird table will also make your garden particularly popular!
Putting out bird feeders can make a real difference to survival rates but it is important to realise that not all birds will come to feeders as they have different eating habits. Scattering food on the floor for ground feeders such as blackbirds and providing natural food sources, in addition to topping up feeders, can make a huge difference to birds’ survival in the winter weather ahead.
Plant a selection of shrubs and trees that provide insect food, and berries or fruit for as long a period as possible. Popular choices include Rowan, Hawthorn, Crab Apple, Holly, Cotoneaster and Pyracantha. As well as fruits and berries, plant some evergreens and thorny plants such as Berberis, Ivy, Mahonia and Yew to provide shelter and safe roosting and nesting sites.