With natural habitats declining in Britain, gardens are more important now than ever for birds. But first, you need to attract birds to your garden. Here are a few ways you can achieve this…

 

Regularly fill bird feeders

This may sound like stating the obvious, but regularly filling your bird feeders will keep your feather friends always coming back for more. Knowing that your garden has a consistent supply of food will make them want to visit more often. Using a mix of foods will also help attract birds, as a variety of tastes will encourage birds to come back for something different each time. Try a mix of sunflower seeds, canary seeds, hemp and husk free oats. If you want to avoid pesky pigeons, avoid using foods that contain a lot of wheat, which they love.

Protect bird food from predators

It’s important that you keep your feeders safe and out of reach from predators at all times, as birds won’t want to visit your garden if they know that it’s unsafe. Try putting your feeder next to some cover to hide it from predators like cats or squirrels, such as a tree, a hedge or a climber-covered fence. Also, hanging it above a prickly shrub can help deter cats. You should also try moving your feeder now and then to keep predators returning to the same spot to take food.

Put a nest box in your garden

This time of year is perfect for putting up nest boxes, as birds use the winter to scope out spots to breed for the springtime. Providing with a safe and secure nest box for the winter will encourage them to return to your garden, as they’ll have made themselves at home in your box. You should also make sure to regularly clean your nest box each winter. Remove old nests and clean the boxes with hot water to kill parasites. This will help encourage birds to return to your garden each year.

Put a birdbath in your garden

Birds need a supply of water at all times to drink and bathe in, but a birdbath is especially useful for your feathery friends in the winter. Bathing makes their feathers easier to preen, keeping them waterproof and insulating, which will be helpful during the cold winter months. Make sure to regularly change and refill with cold water, and keep an eye out for the water freezing over. If this happens, defrost with hot water.

Plant bird-friendly plants

Feeders, nest boxes and birdbaths are all well and good, but they’re no use if birds can’t feel like they’re in a natural habitat. There are plenty of bird-friendly plants to place in your garden that can help your local birds feel right at home. Mixed hedges of hawthorn and holly, ivy-covered arches and pergolas offer shelter and fruity treats for birds. You can also try specimen trees such as bird cherry or crab apple.

Many of us see badgers & foxes every day in our local areas, but there’s plenty of things about these furry little wonders that most people know nothing about. Here are a few of our favourites!

Charles Darwin discovered a fox species

During his expedition on the ship The Beagle at age 22, Darwin collected a fox that is now referred to as Darwin’s Fox. Originally thought to be a subspecies of the South American Gray Fox, this small grey fox has now been classed as its own unique species. Darwin’s Fox is a critically endangered species and lives in just two parts of the world: a small population on the island of Chiloe in Chile, and a small amount at the Chilean national park.

Badgers have a lot of relatives

Badgers belong to the Mustelidae family, which also includes otters, weasels, polecats and wolverines. Many species in this family have similar body types, as they can be identified by their long bodies, round ears and short legs. Members of the Mustelidae family also have scent glands and give off a strong, musty smell.

Foxes are solitary creatures…

Even though foxes are part of the Canidae family, which means they’re related to wolves, dogs and jackals, they aren’t pack animals. Though they will live in small families, or “skulks”, when raising their young, foxes tend to hunt and sleep alone.

…And badgers are more social

Badgers live together with other family members in a clan called a “cete”. While some badgers can be solitary and will move from home to home, cetes can be made up of 2-15 badgers living together. They also share jobs in their living area, including digging and cleaning. All badgers in a clan know each other’s smell and will mark each other so that the whole cete has a shared smell.

Foxes use the Earth’s magnetic field to hunt

Animals like birds, sharks and turtles have a connection to the Earth’s magnetic field, but the fox is the only known creature to use this connection to hunt its prey. According to experts, foxes can see the field as a “ring of shadow” on their eyes that darken as they head towards the magnetic north. When the shadow and the sound the prey is making line up, they’re ready to attack.

A Badger’s home is called a “sett”

Badgers are territorial creatures, with the size of their territory depending and have a number of setts in their chosen territory. They also have a main sett which is the biggest, with some being hundreds of years old and having a number of entrances.

The smallest fox weighs under 3 pounds

The Fennec Fox, which resides in the Sahara Desert, is roughly the size of a small kitten. This cute little creature has elongated ears and a creamy coat and sleeps through the day to protect itself from the burning desert heat. Its long ears have benefits such as better hearing for hunting prey and radiating body heat, allowing it to keep cool. Its paws are also covered with fur so that it can walk on the hot sand.

Badgers keep their “setts” clean

Badgers are incredibly tidy creatures and work hard to ensure that their sett is as clean as possible. Badgers will not defecate in their sett and will have special communal toilets made of shallow pits away from their sett on the edge of their territory. They also will not bring food into their sett, choosing to eat food where they find it or somewhere else in their territory.

Arctic Foxes can survive in extreme cold

As they reside in the northernmost areas of the hemisphere, the arctic fox has adapted to survive the harshest of cold weathers. It doesn’t feel cold or shivers until the climate reaches -70 degrees. Its white coat also camouflages it against predators, and as the season changes, its coat changes too. Its colour will turn to brown or grey so that the fox can blend in with the rocks and dirt.

Where a badger’s habitat is

Most badgers will form their setts in broadleaved woodland areas, but you can find setts just about anywhere. The main reasoning for where a badger will reside is access to food, so the ideal habitat will have plenty of good worming pasture. This is why they sometimes choose gardens for their setts, as the soil is easy to dig through and has a good supply of worms.

As the nights get darker at this time of year and the cold weather produces distractions like rain and snow, it’ll be harder for drivers to see what’s ahead of them on the road. This creates a number of risks for your local wildlife, as animals will often find their way from the woods to highways and residential streets. So, to avoid any potential hazards, here are a few ways you can help keep your local wildlife safe on the roads this winter.

 

Stick to the speed limit

The most obvious, but also most important way to avoid accidents with wildlife is to always stick to the speed limit. Doing this will lessen the impact in the event of a collision. It will also give you more time to see any animals that may be ahead of you, and will give you more time to break and prevent a collision.

 

Keep your eyes out for animals

The best way to make sure no animals are harmed on the road is to always look out for any animals nearby. When driving at night, look out for any reflections in animals’ eyes as you’re driving. This is known as “eye-shine”. And if you have any passengers in your car, let them know to keep an eye out for animals whilst your attention is on the road.

 

Be aware of peak areas and times

It’s helpful to know about any areas you may be traveling through that are popular with wild animals. Do a search of areas you’ll be travelling through to see if they’re popular animal areas and which animals you’re likely to come across. Also, it helps to keep in mind times of the day that animals are most active. For instance, deer are most active between 6pm and 9pm. This is when the day gets darker and it will be harder to see. Knowing when animals are most likely to be near the roads will help you remain alert for any wildlife that darts into your line of vision.

 

Avoid tailgating

Road safety doesn’t just apply to your local wildlife. It’s also essential that you keep yourself safe from other drivers getting into a collision with an animal. If you’re sticking close to the car in front of you, you’re more likely to bump into them if they have to stop suddenly for an animal. That’s why it’s better to keep your distance if you’re in a wildlife populated area to avoid any crashes.

 

Use your brights

Your high-beam lights are there for a reason; don’t be afraid to use them. As the roads are harder to see in the darker winter days, using your full high beams will you give a better view of the roads ahead. Now, you’ll have a better chance of seeing any wildlife to cross the road. Be sure to always be mindful of other drivers when using your high-beam lights so as not to mistake visibility difficult for them.

During this time of year, many wild animals will be hard at work preparing themselves for the cold winter months. This will include foraging for food supplies, building up their body weight and looking for safe and secure spots for hibernation. But with the darker nights and busy activities over the next few weeks, these animals will be more open to risk than usual. That’s why we’ve put together a few instances where you‘ll need to be extra careful of wildlife, and what you can do to help them.

 

Halloween

With all the excitement of Halloween, it can be easy to forget about your local wildlife. As it will be dark by the time you and your little ones are out trick or treating, it’ll be hard to spot any small animals like hedgehogs or foxes that may be wandering through the streets at night. That’s why it’s important that you are always careful of any wildlife that may be nearby, and bring a torch with you if you are going to be walking through particularly dark areas.

Bonfire Night

Bonfire Night may be a fun night for us, but it is one of the biggest risks of the year for many animals. As hibernating animals like hedgehogs, frogs and dormice continue to search for the most secure and safe place for them to hibernate through the winter, they may come across a bonfire and think this is a safe hibernation spot. That’s why you must take precautionary measures to ensure that no wildlife has found their way into your bonfire before the night’s celebrations begin.

This includes regularly checking your bonfire throughout the day to check for any small animals and putting chicken wire around the bonfire to prevent them from getting in. It would also help to get wire that will slope outwards at an angle to make it difficult for wildlife to climb the wire. And once the celebrations are done, Make sure you that you clear any litter and firework debris, as many of these items can be harmful to both the local wildlife and the environment.

Be careful when tidying the garden

It’s not just bonfires that hibernating animals will turn to for shelter. There’s plenty of places in your garden that local wildlife will think is suitable for hibernation, such as log piles, leaf piles and compost heaps. That’s why it’s important that if you are tidying up around the garden, you need to make sure to check areas like this for any hibernating animals that may have snuggled themselves in there.

Make shelter for your local wildlife

Of course, one alternative to worrying about disturbing hibernating animals in your garden is to make some shelter for them yourself. Creating a secure hibernation spot is the perfect way to ensure that your local wildlife is safe throughout the harsh winter months. For hedgehogs, this can be done by making your very own hedgehog house. For amphibians like frogs, you can read more here about how to make a hibernaculum. And though they aren’t hibernating animals, birds will still struggle with the cold nights through winter. For this, you can build yourself a nest box to provide your local birds with somewhere warm for the night.

 

September means it’s time for hibernating animals to get themselves ready for their long slumber. This will include building up weight for warmth through the cold months and looking for shelter. One species that are well known for their hibernation habits are hedgehogs, however, badgers also take part in hibernation practices to help them through the winter season. Here are a few things you need to know about hedgehog and badger hibernation to help them through their long sleep.

 

What happens during hibernation?

It’s a common misconception that hedgehogs sleep through the winter for hibernation. In actuality, hedgehogs will drop their body temperature to match their surroundings and enter a state of torpor. This will allow them to save a lot of energy but slows down all other bodily functions making normal activity impossible. Before this process begins, hedgehogs will be spending their time building up their body fat as much as possible. That’s why you must provide your local hedgehogs with as much food and water as possible before hibernation begins.

Badgers don’t hibernate, but similar to hedgehogs, they do spend the autumn/early-winter period building up their body weight. This is done to help them through the winter when food sources are scarce. They do also spend more of their time underground, however, they don’t sleep through the winter and will regularly leave their sett to find whatever food they can. This is why you should continue to leave out food for badgers throughout the year, as they will be struggling to find food sources during the winter months.

Where does hibernation happen?

Badgers are creatures of habit, and so they will usually find a home for themselves underground, or as they’re known, a “sett”. Though badgers will leave their setts regularly to continue looking for food sources, they will spend most of their time underground where it is warm and safe.

Hedgehogs will have to be more selective about their hibernation spot, as they don’t have the luxury of digging underground to find themselves a home. Typically, hedgehogs will use warm secluded areas around the local areas, and sometimes even in your garden. This can be places like log or leaf piles, compost heaps and underneath sheds. So make sure you check areas like this for any hedgehogs hibernating before moving them, but also be sure not to disturb them. If you want to go the extra mile to help hedgehogs during hibernation, take a look here to discover how to build your own hedgehog house, providing your local hoggies with a safe, secure and warm hibernation spot.

How can I help during hibernation?

As badgers don’t sleep through the whole hibernation period and are still looking for food, you must regularly put out food and water. The winter weather will take its toll, and so badgers will need as much food as they can get to keep their body weight up and remain warm.

As hedgehogs will be in a state of torpor and won’t be leaving their hibernation spot, you won’t need to put out food as much as you do through the rest of the year. However, some hedgehogs may wake early from their sleep on mild days when the cold isn’t as harsh. Therefore, you should still regularly put out water and food on warmer days for any early-waking hedgehogs.