Cold weather, icy temperatures, lots of rain (and maybe snow), bare trees and frozen ground – winter can be a hard time for animals. Luckily, there are some simple things you can do to help wildlife survive and thrive through the winter months so they can emerge full of life in the spring!
1. Leave out some fresh water
When it’s freezing, it can be hard for wildlife like birds and hedgehogs to find fresh water to drink. Leave out fresh water regularly where they can get to it and they’ll be able to stay hydrated.
You may need to check it hasn’t frozen over, but make sure you don’t put anything like salt or antifreeze in it as this can poison wildlife.
2. Feed the birds
If you’ve got a bird table, then winter is the time you can make a big difference to the birds who overwinter in the UK rather than flying further south.
There are lots of premixed seeds you can put out, or you can make a seedcake using fats as well which gives birds extra calories and nutrients.
We’ve put a recipe idea below so you can even make this yourself and leave it out for the birds to enjoy! And why not keep and eye on it and record what birds come to visit?
3. Let the ivy grow
While most flowers and plants die back in the autumn, some do continue to bloom or grow late into the colder months. These are therefore an important source of food for much wildlife, so let it grow a bit longer rather than cutting it back.
Ivy is a perfect example. Those thick, winding tendrils and leaves are perfect hiding places for insects and wildlife to keep snug and safe over winter, and Ivy flowers late which means food for insects late into the autumn when other food sources are scarce.
And we also think it looks pretty and Christmassy too! So let it grow a bit longer, and look out for wildlife if you do decide to cut it back or trim it.
4. Make a winter home for invertebrates
Leave a little wild pile of logs in one corner of your garden, and you’ll be helping invertebrates like woodlice and centipedes stay cosy and safe over the winter. The wood protects them for predators and they can crawl into tiny cracks and snuggle up to while away the cold months.
5. Keep the pond fresh
If you have a pond in your garden and it freezes over, toxic gasses can build up and affect the wildlife that’s living there. If you spot that’s happened, then melt a hole in the ice by placing a saucepan of hot water on top until it melts through – as advised by the RSPCA.
6. If you find a hibernating animal, leave it be
If you’re moving piles of leaves or logs in your garden, you might find a small animal hibernating there. If you do, try very hard not to disturb it. Instead, cover it over again, keep that area safe and try not to go near it until the spring has come and the animal has woken up.
More info and advice
- 5 ways you can help wildlife this winter – BBC Wildlife Magazine
- Royal Horticultural Society – Helping wildlife through the winter
- RSPB – Creating a wildlife-friendly garden
- Discover Wildlife – How to prepare your wildlife garden for winter
- Gardeners World – 5 winter wildlife gardening jobs