Spring might be around the corner but the next couple of months are the most perilous for winter wildlife, says Jane Moore.
Once we get to February, I’m impatient to get into spring proper. I’m not the only one; all the little daffodils and spring bulbs are looking promising, just waiting for the days to lengthen and the sun to have a bit more warmth. The garden wildlife, too, is getting decidedly lively. Birds are singing gustily in the mornings marking their territories and seeking a mate. There’s also much scurrying and scuffling under the hedge, from Blackbirds ferreting about, and perhaps mice and hedgehogs waking up from their winter naps.
But, even though it’s the shortest month, we all know just how long, cold and dreary February can be. That makes this month the difference between life or death for some of the wildlife in your garden. A bit of extra help now can make all the difference. Read on to find out how to look after winter wildlife in your garden.
3 Things to Know About Feeding Birds
- Feed birds regularly, little and often. This means they don’t waste valuable energy coming to an empty bird table, but it will lessen the attraction for squirrels and rats.
- Make sure you put out a mixture of foods such as suet balls and blocks, mealworms for Robins, finely chopped bacon rind and cheese for small birds like Wrens and over-ripe apples for Thrushes and Blackbirds.
- Put a shallow dish of water out on the bird table or the ground. Winter can be surprisingly dry when it’s cold with ponds and puddles frozen over so water can become virtually inaccessible.
3 Wildlife Projects to Make in Your Garden This Month
Build a bug hotel. Use an old pallet or wooden box on its side to create layers of bricks, straw, cones and branches. You can really make it into a work of art with some effort and it should provide a nice, comfortable home for ladybirds, bees and spiders, as well as beetles. Or take a look at this guide to building a wildlife den from the Two Thirsty Gardeners.
Make a Woodpile
Make a woodpile. Simply pile up a few logs and branches artfully, stuffing the gaps with dead leaves. This is great for all sorts of little bugs and beasties that like to burrow into rotting wood, as well as birds and hedgehogs that might be looking for a meal. It can make a great feature in a lost corner of the garden and you can plant around it with insect-friendly plants such as hellebores.
Put up a Nesting Box
Put up a nesting box. These are easy enough to make from a few offcuts of wood or an old pallet or, if you’re impatient, the garden centres are full of ready-made ones. Birds will often use nesting boxes for shelter on cold nights and then will return to them in spring to nest in. Make sure you place it high enough away from neighbourhood cats and facing away from direct sunlight.
Top Wildlife Plants For February
Hellebores such as Christmas Rose and Oriental Hellebore are brilliant winter bloomers with long-lasting, lovely flowers that are a joy in the garden and also great for winter-flying bumble bees.
Ivy berries are so sturdy that they last on the plant through the worst of the winter weather, providing much needed sustenance for all sorts of birds, including thrushes and blackbirds.
Winter-flowering heathers make a cheerful addition to rockeries and garden borders and they look great in flower pots and garden containers too. These early flowers might be small but they pull in nectar seeking insects such as bees and moths.
What other steps are you taking in your garden to attract winter wildlife? Let us know in the comments.