- Provide consistent food in your garden- a variety of seed sizes and types are ideal. Remember to use clean feeders and don’t let food go mouldy as this is unhealthy for birds. If you are going away over Christmas and new year ask a neighbour to keep up the feeding in your patch so they don’t go without.
- Consider some special foods like fat balls or mealworms etc in cold weather. Some of our insect eating species are hardest affected so treat them to something meaty. All birds like high energy treats in the cold , like raw peanut butter.
- Water is key- provide a bowl or tray full of fresh warm water once a day in your garden and watch the birds queue up to drink – and bathe which helps them keep warm ironically in snowy and frozen weather.
- Shelter: birds don’t just use nest boxes in spring for breeding- many species will roost in them overnight in winter. Have you cleaned yours out this autumn? If you want to put up new ones, now’s an ideal time so they are ‘lived in’ before spring. You can also put up old fashioned ‘roosting pouches’ if you like- wrens love them.
- Garden Mess: leave some cover in your garden, and places for insects and the birds food sources to overwinter- that compost heap, log pile or dead flower heads are ideal refugia.
- Get Counting: why not learn to ID and record what you see in your garden? The RSPB’s famous BIG GARDEN BIRD COUNT is coming up in January, the UK’s largest citizen science project. Your garden sightings can help build a better picture of birds and their conservation.
- Stake Out: most of us have more time in winter , so why not have a concerted watching effort to really get to know who or what is using your garden so you can decide how to help them more in future. For example, why not try camera trapping to see if you really do have hedgehogs ( do they need a house ?) or snow tracking to see if squirrels are crossing the road to get to your house (then you can provide food in a safer site in future.)
- Get Building: time on your hands? why not make a bird box, hibernation box, a bug hotel or other wildlife habitat addition to your garden, ready for spring?
- Learn more: visit a reserve, improve your ID skills, read a book, try a new identifying a new taxa, find a local expert, take a course, visit a museum – the list is endless!
- Enjoy! why not take time over winter to share your knowledge and joy of wildlife with friends and family- especially the next generation. After all a love of wildlife is contagious!
P.S. You can help wildlife at Christmas too by giving a gift from or membership of one of the many great wildlife conservation organisations- like SWT!
P.P.S. Osprey satellite tracking updated- Blue YD is still doing fine!