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Autumn harvest could leave wildlife wanting

Last modified: 01 October 2012

Harvest mouse eating blackberries

Image: Ben Andrew

The effects of a cold and wet spring could cause yet more problems for East Sussex’s wildlife through the autumn and winter, the RSPB warns.

Reports of late-ripening berries, fruits and nuts in gardens and countryside - all vital natural food sources for wildlife - could leave birds, mice, voles and other mammals hungry. 

The unusually cold and wet spring could be to blame, with some plants not getting the right conditions earlier in the year to develop properly or to produce fruit at the right time.

Samantha Stokes, RSPB south east spokeswoman, said: “It’s been a difficult spring and summer for wildlife, with our make Your Nature Count survey in June highlighting that birds were struggling to find enough natural sources of food for themselves and their chicks.

“Natural food is very important at this time of year and a lean autumn crop is the last thing that our wildlife needs.”

Plantlife’s Richard Moyse said: “At Plantlife’s Ranscombe Farm Reserve in Kent, it’s a mixed story. Fruiting in some species seems to have been pushed back by the cold start to the year, with sweet chestnuts looking to be some weeks behind last year’s crop.

“There’s a great crop of blackberries here, which is good for birds, dormice and other wildlife, but blackberries flower in summer, and it is spring-flowering species, such as blackthorn, that may have suffered from the absence of bees and other pollinators in the cold and wet spring. Sloes have certainly been hard to find this autumn.”

The RSPB says providing food like fatballs and seeds for birds is important, but it is also urging people to manage their gardens and land with wildlife in mind.  That means not cutting back berry-bearing hedges, so that any berries on them can be eaten by wildlife, and leaving fallen fruits on the ground for species like blackbirds.

The RSPB’s Samantha Stokes continued: “Our gardens can be lifelines for wildlife, especially when conditions are tough. A good garden, no matter how small, can provide food and shelter for a variety of wildlife during the winter and still be attractive to look at.”

Get more tailored advice about what to do in the garden and when at RSPB’s Homes for Wildlife www.rspb.org.uk/hfw or find out more about Plantlife at www.plantlife.org.uk

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