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How to help wildlife over winter

What can you do to help wildlife cope with the cold temperatures and short, dark days of winter when food is scarce? Plenty!

A robin, or Erithacus rubecula, with cocked head by  Francis C. Franklin / CC-BY-SA-3.0
A robin, or Erithacus rubecula, with cocked head by Francis C. Franklin / CC-BY-SA-3.0

1. Leave a patch of your garden wild

Letting a small area of your garden go wild over winter will help many different animals. Invertebrates such as insects and spiders will have hiding places to curl up and keep out of the cold. Small animals such as mice or hedgehogs will love a cosy bed of dry leaves to hide under. You can help even more by making a log pile – literally just a pile of logs and branches – as lots of insects will love the warm wood for burrowing into or hiding under.

2. Make sure there is fresh water

When the temperatures plummet, animals can find it hard to get fresh water to drink, so one way you can help is to leave out fresh tap water with nothing in it for them. Of course, if it’s cold enough to freeze you’ll need to do this regularly and keep an eye on it to make sure it doesn’t freeze solid!

Another way you can help is to break the ice on puddles and ponds so animals can access the fresh water underneath. This also helps ponds ‘breathe’ – toxic gas can build up underneath the ice sometimes, so making a hole can help this escape safely. BBC Wildlife Magazine suggests making a hole by placing a pan of hot water on top of the ice, and waiting until it melts through. Make sure you don’t pour hot water into the pond though as that can harm the animals living there!

Frozen Pond (2280755283) by Tony Webster CC BY 2.0
Frozen Pond (2280755283) by Tony Webster CC BY 2.0

3. Leave out bird food

Although there are some plants with berries on that birds can eat over the winter, often the pickings are slim. Leaving out food for birds can make a big difference. We’ve got two simple bird feeders you can make at home to get you started, or you might choose to buy a ready made one you can top up with nuts.

Place it where you can see it from the house, and enjoy watching lots of different types of birds come to feed! If you like, you can also identify what you’ve spotted and upload that information to the Nature’s Calendar website, which is helping conservationists and scientists find out how seasons are shifting due to climate change.

There are loads more ideas and suggestions in our ‘how can we help out animals when it’s cold‘ activity.

More ways to help wildlife this winter

 

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