DO YOUR BIT FOR GAR­DEN GUESTS...

OUR BIRDS, SMALL MAM­MALS AND IN­SECTS COULD USE SOME AS­SIS­TANCE GET­TING THROUGH THE COLDER MONTHS. HAN­NAH STEPHEN­SON RE­VEALS HOW YOU CAN HELP

Uxbridge Gazette - - Your Garden -

WIN­TER is a time when wildlife needs an ex­tra help­ing hand, to en­sure that birds, hedge­hogs and other vis­i­tors to the gar­den make it through the colder months.

The ex­treme weather, lack of food and changes in shel­ter­ing habits can all play a part and make this time of year tricky for the an­i­mals liv­ing out­doors – but how can you help them?

Here are eight ways to sup­port the crea­tures on your doorstep through the win­ter months...

1 KEEP BIRD FEED­ERS AND BATHS TOPPED UP

MANY birds lose 10% of their body weight overnight in cold weather and ex­pend a lot of en­ergy fly­ing to feed­ers, so you need to keep your bird feed­ers and baths topped up so they don’t have a wasted jour­ney.

Pro­vide them with a va­ri­ety of foods, from seed and suet to fruit, dried meal­worms and grated cheese.

Avoid any­thing salty like salted peanuts and lose the net strings that fat balls come in, as birds can get their feet and beaks stuck in them.

Don’t put out cook­ing fat or vegetable oil, which don’t agree with birds.

Site feed­ers or nest boxes at a high level, to make them less ac­ces­si­ble to cats.

There are many seed mixes on the mar­ket, but avoid those which con­tain a lot of wheat. They ap­peal chiefly to pi­geons.

Finches and tits go for sun­flower seeds, while black­birds and thrushes love fruit and berries in­clud­ing pyra­can­thas and co­toneast­ers.

Black­birds also en­joy dried fruit, such as sul­tanas.

2 BE BERRY AWARE

BIRDS rely on berries and seeds to keep their food sup­ply up dur­ing the win­ter months, so if you are us­ing berries for Christ­mas dec­o­ra­tions and have net­ted them for pro­tec­tion, leave at least some berries for the birds.

3 ROT­TEN WOOD IS GOOD

AFTER au­tumn prun­ing, don’t dis­pose of all your rot­ten wood and bark, be­cause these pro­vide much-needed shel­ter for many over­win­ter­ing in­sects in­clud­ing la­dy­birds.

4 FEED THE BEES

OC­CA­SION­ALLY, bees will emerge from their win­ter hi­ber­na­tion on milder days. Treat them to a 50:50 sugar and wa­ter so­lu­tion.

Cer­tain kinds of bum­ble­bee, in­clud­ing the buff-tailed bum­ble­bee, are seen in win­ter gar­dens on sunny days. Choose a sunny spot for plants which are nec­tar-rich in­clud­ing the stink­ing helle­bore and win­ter­flow­er­ing heather.

5 KEEP AR­EAS UN­TIDY

DON’T worry too much about sweep­ing up all the leaves be­cause they can pro­vide shel­ter for a range of mam­mals and in­sects.

Among the best hid­ing ar­eas is un­der hedges, which should re­main dry and rel­a­tively warm.

Pests in­clud­ing slugs and snails often hide un­der leaves or other gar­den de­bris, pro­vid­ing tasty morsels for birds, frogs and hedge­hogs.

6 DON’T LET PONDS FREEZE OVER

IF YOU have fish, they need oxy­gen to sur­vive. When ponds freeze over it dra­mat­i­cally re­duces oxy­gen con­tent, so stick a ten­nis ball on the sur­face to stop this hap­pen­ing.

If it does freeze, get a pan of boil­ing wa­ter and place the pan care­fully on the ice, so that it grad­u­ally thaws to make a hole.

Place old roof tiles and logs in sunny spots near the pond to give shel­ter to frogs and toads.

7 LOOK AFTER IN­SECTS

WHILE many in­sects hi­ber­nate in the win­ter, oc­ca­sion­ally on sunny days some will emerge from their slum­ber in search of pollen.

Good sources in­clude ivy, which flow­ers in win­ter, and ma­ho­nia, which pro­duces clus­ters of sweetly-scented zingy yel­low flow­ers from Novem­ber to March.

But­ter­flies and moths over­win­ter as pu­pae or cater­pil­lars in long grass or at the base of plants, or even just be­low the soil, so keep your grass as long as you can stand and don’t cut back all of your peren­ni­als, as other in­sects and spi­ders may take refuge in the hol­low stems.

Choose a sunny spot for plants which are nec­tar­rich in­clud­ing the stink­ing helle­bore and win­ter­flow­er­ing heather

8 HELP HEDGE­HOGS

IN MILD win­ters, hedge­hogs can re­main ac­tive in the gar­den through Novem­ber and De­cem­ber.

If hedge­hogs are hi­ber­nat­ing in your gar­den, just be aware that they may have found refuge in your com­post heap, so be care­ful when turn­ing it.

While their gen­eral diet con­sists of slugs, worms, bee­tles and cater­pil­lars, in cold snaps the num­ber of in­sects and pests will be much more scarce.

Give hedge­hogs ex­tra food such as meat-based wet dog or cat food, hedge­hog food or cat bis­cuits.

They will also need a shal­low dish of fresh wa­ter.

Don’t give them milk, as they are lac­tose-in­tol­er­ant.

Keep feed­ers and baths topped up for any feath­ered friends vis­it­ing your out­door space

Hedge­hogs are lac­tose-in­tol­er­ant so leave wa­ter out for them to drink rather than milk On milder days, bees may emerge from their slum­ber

Fish need oxy­gen to sur­vive, which is re­duced dra­mat­i­cally when ponds freeze over

Some in­sects emerge from their hi­ber­na­tion on sunny win­ter days

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