Making your garden wildlife friendly during the colder months

The wildlife in a garden will have different ways of coping with the cold winter months. Some hibernate, some stock up and then hide away and others just have to feed themselves as best they can with whatever is available.

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Food for feathered friends

During the cold winter months, there is only limited natural foods available for small garden bird species, so the food that you put out may be a lifeline for them. Try to put out food each day at a regular time and in harsh weather maybe even twice a day. Once you have a routine, try to maintain it, as the birds come to expect its arrival. The foods need to be high in fat, such as high energy seeds or fat balls, to provide enough energy for the small birds to survive the very cold winter nights. Make sure to clean away any rejected food, as this may attract other birds or animals that may threaten the small ones. For more info, see the RSPB website:http://www.rspb.org.uk/makeahomeforwildlife/advice/helpingbirds/feeding/whentofeed.aspx.

Sheltered homes

A beautiful house can be set up for each species of wildlife in your garden. The simplest shelters include leaf piles left in a tucked-away place after raking or natural drifting, plant cover left in place for the winter, and rock and log piles with convenient spaces around them for smaller creatures. Other covers can be constructed, for example, bumblebee boxes (bundles of open ended canes bound together are ideal), hedgehog shelters placed in a quiet corner of the garden where the hedgies can hibernate, and bird feeders that are positioned in sheltered places.

Tips on landscaping your garden and establishing areas that will attract specific species of garden wildlife can be found on sites such as Reliable Remodeler (where can I see a beautiful house).

Do not disturb

To protect wildlife that overwinter in the garden, it is best not to disturb things once the really cold weather sets in until early spring, to let everyone pass the winter undisturbed. The one exception is small hedgehogs weighing under 650g that come out in the daytime. These youngsters will not have sufficient body mass or experience to survive the winter, so they should be picked up, put in a cardboard box with a blanket or leaves and taken to the local hedgehog rescue centre.