Happy new year!
2013 has started off much as 2012 finished with plenty of the wet stuff around. However don't let a bit of mud and rain stop you from doing a few bits around the garden to help out the wildlife. I managed to brave the conditions and got out for a while to do some pruning, hopefully to encourage thicker growth this spring to create conditions ideal for nesting birds. I bundled some of the cuttings up and placed them in the borders where I hope to attract in a range of invertebrates. As tempting as it is to cut back the dead herbaceous and flowering plant stems try to leave them until March as they may be sheltering some wintering minibeasts and may also provide seed food for some garden birds like the goldfinch. Check to see if any of your hedges need a trim now that most have ceased to bear fruit or berries, if you have noticed any that still have berries on them keep a close eye as waxwings will be scouring the land looking for any berries and can turn up anywhere. Most of the hawthorn hedges, rowans and hollies will have already been hit by the birds leaving the later ripening ornamental species like cotoneaster and pyracantha that are planted around our parks, gardens and towns as likely places to spot these stunning visitors.
One thing you might want to take a closer look at in January is ivy. At this time of year ivy can be a lifesaver for birds as it's purple to black berries should just be ripening as most of the other berry crops are coming to an end. Most of the ivy plants you will see across the UK will produce berries although the wild type dark leaved hedera helix is usually the best for berry production, the variegated varieties don't seem to deliver as good a crop in my experience. In the queue of birds that eat ivy berries are woodpigeons, blackbirds, greenfinches and starlings to name just a few. It's also likely to provide birds with a safe roosting habitat during the long winter nights due to the dense foliage.
Chris Shields (rspb-images.com)
With all this water around creating a pond in your garden might not be the first thing on your mind but January is actually a good time to think about creating one. Not only will it create a wildlife attraction for drinking and bathing birds but all kinds of aquatic and semi-aquatic life can be attracted into the garden. A pond for wildlife doesn't have to be huge, small water features can be just as popular with wildlife so if you are looking for a new project in the garden for the new year please consider a pond. We've got some tips to help you here and Pond Conservation have also got some great information here. Whilst it's pretty mild and the soil is soft it's definitely something to think about! It's worth watching ponds for activity, frogs have spawned very early in spring in recent years and a mild January may get them stirring.
After Christmas you may have some left over food items that you just can't face eating! If you are unable to face any more pastry, Christmas cake, mild cheeses or mixed nuts (as long as they are not salted) then all of these items can be left out for the birds.
Don't forget to sign up for our Big Garden Birdwatch survey later this month!
As this is the last Wildlife enquiries blog before Christmas we want to wish all of you who have taken the time to read our blogs this year a merry Christmas and a happy new year! It doesn't look like we'll be seeing the Lodge looking like the below picture this Christmas, although we may need a boat to get in and out soon given the promised wet weather!
Andy Hay (rspb-images.com)
But it won't be long before we start seeing these popping up!
I hope that you can get out and about this Christmas, good luck tracking down some of the wonderful winter wildlife around at the moment like these cheeky chaps and I hope you manage to enjoy some nature in between the mince pies, Christmas pud and presents!
David Kjaer (rspb-images.com)
Fed up of tinsel and twinkly lights everywhere? We've got some festive ideas for (outdoor) tree decorations to help the wildlife! These might not look quite so dazzling as a flashing santa or a neon reindeer but they will attract in the birds! I'm sure you will all agree that our feathered friends can brighten up our gardens better than any shiny ornament during the dark winter days! You may need to prepare yourself to get a bit messy!
Dipped pine cones - For this you will need some foraged pine cones that are intact and open. You will also need a large bowl, some lard and any bird seed, porridge oats or crushed nuts that you wish to add to the lard. Some string to hang them up is also useful. All you need to do is to warm the lard so it's pliable, get your hands in and mix in your extra treats and then roll the pine cones in the mix until you are satisfied they are well stuffed with tasty lard bird treats. Pop them in the fridge to set and then when they are nice and solid pick a tree or hedge and hang them up! Visiting members of the tit famliy will probably be first in line!
Popcorn and monkey nut tinsel - This is one for those with lots of patience! You need a needle, some tough thread and some unsalted plain popcorn and/or monkey nuts. Thread the tasty treats along the thread and then hang the string around or across a tree or hedge. The length will depend on your patience!
A gingerbread or pastry angel - Pastry is popular with birds and a pastry angel for the top of your tree is going to be a popular edible decoration with your garden birds. There is a recipe here, there is no need to bother with the icing! If you make a batch of slightly small ones try hanging them up on the tree.
Multi-coloured fat baubles - To make fat baubles you will need to follow the lard recipe for the pine cone treats but this time if you want to add some food colouring (it won't harm birds). When you have got them all mixed and in a range of interesting colours, whilst the lard mix is still pliable roll them into balls. In order to hang them up at this stage poke a hole through the middle and thread some short bits of string with a knot on the end, tie a loop in the other end so you can hang them up. Let them set in the fridge and hang them up when they are solid. You could of course go for different shapes using a dough cutter to make lard stars etc.
Fruit cocktail - Apples and pears that are a bit over ripe are really popular with blackbirds and if you are lucky waxwings. Try slicing the fruits and pushing the slices onto sticks or bits of string so they can hang from the trees.
I hope that these ideas give you some food for thought this Christmas. If you have any questions or your own ideas for bird food tree decorations please share them in the comments section!
Hopefully the first installment has given you lots of ideas about where to out up nesting boxes with small entrance holes. Looking for something else to do? How about some open fronted boxes for those sheltered spots?
Small open fronted boxes can attract a range of species, the size of the opening influences which species is likely to be attracted. The below species are listed below with the height the front panel needs to be for that species if the box is built to the specifications on our small nestbox plan.
robins (100 mm)
wrens (140 mm)
pied wagtails (100 mm)
spotted flycatchers (60 mm)
I have known blackbirds to nest in the more open kind of these boxes as well.
Now, location. Wrens and robins like to nest in dense cover. Ideally for these species put the boxes amongst foliage, an ivy or clematis covered trellis or fence would be ideal. Whilst they often nest on or near the ground, for both species I would suggest locating the box around 5 or 6 feet high within the foliage. Whilst this is the norm, you will see them nesting in boxes that are located in more open situations where buildings or trees provide them with shelter. Locating the boxes tucked under the over hangs of garage or shed roofs can be an effective location. This would also apply to the spot' fly's and pied wag's though they like a clear outlook, often nesting a bit higher off the ground, whilst the wrens and robins don't mind a sheltered entrance.
Most of these locations will be well protected from environmental conditions however it would be worth ensuring that the boxes are not getting full exposure to summer sun, predominant winds and lashing rain.
We've got a number of suitable boxes in our shop if making your own isn't on your to do list, they make a great present, have a look here.
Any questions, fire away in the comments!
The Law Commission consultation closes today (30 November 2012).
Ten minutes of your time could help save wildlife in the UK, every comment counts in this rare opportunity to influence the laws that should protect our wildlife.
Want to help? Have a look at our laws for wildlife page on the link below.
There’s three steps to it –
1 – Say why you think it is important to have laws that protect our wildlife (be as general or specific as you like – I used the plight of the hen harrier in England as an example)
2 – Explain what you would like to see change in the law (you can use our suggestions in the above link such as increased penalties but feel free to add your own)
3 – Send the email to - firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you for your time!