Help na­ture:

This can be a re­ally harsh time of year for Bri­tain’s wildlife, so here’s a hand­ful of ways you can help your lo­cal furry and feath­ered friends this sea­son, cour­tesy of the RSPCA

EDP Norfolk - - INSIDE - WORDS: Llewe­lyn Lowen

What you can do to look af­ter our wildlife

1 Birds rely on our help to feed in the win­ter months, so of­fer a va­ri­ety of dif­fer­ent food to at­tract a whole host of birds to your gar­den: • Suit­able seeds and grains

– like ny­jer, mil­let, oats and sun­flower seeds. • Cooked rice, pasta and

unsweet­ened pas­try – all are packed with starch to help birds keep warm.

• Pota­toes – boiled, baked, roasted or mashed.

• Cheese – crum­bled or grated. • Fat – un­cooked and un­salted ba­con rinds pro­vide a great calo­rie boost. Avoid salty fats as these can be toxic to birds. • Ap­ples, pears and soft fruits

– just re­mem­ber to soak raisins, sul­tanas and other dried fruit in wa­ter first.

• Fresh co­conut – sawn in half and hang on nat­u­ral string. Never use des­ic­cated co­conut as it swells up in a bird’s stom­ach.

• In­sects – such as meal­worms or wax worms.

• Peanuts – they are rich in fat, but only feed peanuts if they are un­salted, fresh and sold for hu­man con­sump­tion, and put in good qual­ity wire mesh feed­ers. 2

Net-free suet balls for birds are a great way to mix a va­ri­ety of healthy foods all to­gether. Leave them on your bird ta­ble, or thread them on nat­u­ral string and hang up in a tree. They also make a great ac­tiv­ity for chil­dren dur­ing the fes­tive hol­i­days. Pour some seeds, chopped nuts, bis­cuits crumbs and oats in a bowl and mix in some melted lard or suet. Then ei­ther press them into half a co­conut shell, or roll out to 2cm thick and cut out shapes with cookie cut­ters. 3 As well as food, birds and other gar­den wildlife need ac­cess to fresh wa­ter dur­ing win­ter. If there has been an overnight frost make sure any wa­ter in your gar­den, whether a pond or a bird bath, isn’t frozen. Toxic gases can build up in a frozen pond and may kill fish or frogs hi­ber­nat­ing at the bot­tom. Never put salt or an­tifreeze in the wa­ter, or pour boil­ing wa­ter onto the ice, in­stead care­fully place a pan of hot wa­ter on the sur­face to melt a hole. Break­ing ice with force can also harm any fish or frogs hid­den un­der the sur­face.

4

Make sure to put up nest boxes in and around your gar­den. Many bird species will re­ally ap­pre­ci­ate them as a roost­ing site dur­ing the cold win­ter nights. But make sure they are ap­pro­pri­ate for the wildlife’s size, that re­mov­able parts aren’t too tight or too loose, and that they are wa­ter­proof, with drainage holes in the base. If they are hang­ing or on a pole make sure they are fixed se­curely so they with­stand high winds. 5 Bug ho­tels are an­other great way to en­cour­age more in­sects into your gar­den – they can be as big or small as you have room for! You can buy one at most gar­den cen­tres or have a go at mak­ing your own from bam­boo. Also, leav­ing piles of logs and leaves or com­post is a great way to pro­vide some nat­u­ral shel­ter for in­sects as well as other wildlife too.

6

If you are hav­ing a bon­fire, be sure to check for hedge­hogs and other wildlife be­fore light­ing it. If you can, build it im­me­di­ately be­fore light­ing to make sure it is clear. And don’t for­get to shut shed and green­house doors, or you may end up with un­ex­pected guests who strug­gle to find their way home again.

Llewe­lyn Lowen is Sci­en­tific In­for­ma­tion Of­fi­cer at the RSPCA. For more in­for­ma­tion on how you can help your lo­cal wildlife this win­ter visit rspca.org.uk/ ad­vice­andwel­fare/wildlife

BE­LOW RIGHT:Com­post could pro­vide valu­able respite for wildlife

RIGHT:Of­fer birds easy ac­cess to food over the win­ter months

BE­LOW LEFT:Fresh co­conut is a treat for birds

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