Last modified: 23 August 2013
Image: Chris Gomersall
As the nights gradually become colder, birds and other wildlife will be seen preparing for the winter to come. Swifts have already left for Africa, although swallows and house martins linger a little longer, gathering in flocks before embarking on their long migration south. Yet their place will soon be taken by winter thrushes from the north, who will come to feast on the berries in our hedgerows.
While for us, autumn is a good time to prepare our gardens for the coming winter, and the RSPB is calling on the residents of Berkshire to consider the wildlife that may come to rely on our gardens for food and shelter over the coming months.
The nature conservation charity recently launched their new campaign, Giving Nature a Home, urging people to act for nature in their own gardens.
The campaign comes after 25 wildlife organisations, including the RSPB, released the groundbreaking State of Nature report, which revealed that 60 per cent of the wildlife species studied, including garden favourites like starlings, hedgehogs and some butterflies, has declined over recent decades. And they are in danger of further declines unless more is done to provide better habitats.
Samantha Stokes, from RSPB South East, said: “Although this is a time when gardeners traditionally start to clear up, if you want to help and encourage wildlife, you could adopt a more natural approach.
“Leaving seed-heads, especially on plants such as teasels, thistles and sunflowers, and allowing vegetation to die back naturally, provides food and shelter for wildlife through the colder months.
“While deadheading buddleia will keep it flowering well into the autumn; although later flowers will be smaller than earlier ones they are particularly valuable as a food supply for bees and butterflies.
“Don’t panic, a wildlife-friendly garden doesn't have to be wild and overgrown, it can look attractive all year round. By growing a wide variety of plants you'll offer food and shelter for birds and other wildlife.”
Autumn is also an ideal time for planning and creating next year’s borders. While the size of your garden might limit what you can plant, it's possible to garden for wildlife on even the smallest balcony or terrace.
You can provide space for nature, no matter the size of your garden. Containers are great for growing plants in and can even be used to create a mini-pond. Although container grown plants can be planted at any time, autumn gives them plenty of time to establish before winter.
Creating a rich habitat of trees, shrubs and flowers is the key to providing wildlife with year-round food, think of it as the equivalent of a motorway service station: a place for creatures to stop over for food and a rest!
Samantha added: “In a well planned wildlife garden you might spot blackcaps eating the red berries of honeysuckle in the autumn and common darter dragonflies feeding on the flies that come to feast on the over-ripe juices of the fruit.
“Or perhaps blackbirds as they gobble up berries through the winter or forage for insects under the shelter of a humid shrub bed all year round, accompanied by a hedgehog or toad that has also come to feed on the insects.”
The Giving Nature a Home website will give everyone access to expert advice about helping nature in any outside space – whether it’s a huge garden or a small planting tub on a balcony – at rspb.org.uk/homes