How to prepare your garden for winter wildlife

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winter wildlife garden hero

Winter is a particularly harsh time of year for the native fauna that visit our gardens, but there are lots of things we can do to help wildlife through this chilly period

From providing warm nests for insects and food for birds to pond maintenance and reusing autumn foliage, there are some simple things you can do to help wildlife flourish in your garden during the colder month.

If you’re keen on learning more about the UK’s native winter wildlife, why not visit one of the 10 Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust sites across the country. As part of your Boundless membership, you can enjoy unlimited access to all 10 WWT locations including free admission for one additional guest plus free entry for up to six children. Click here to find out more…

Keep feathered friends fed

blue tit on bird feeder

Small birds like chiffchaffs, robins and tits can struggle during the winter months as food sources like berries, seeds and insects become scarcer in the cold weather. That means anything extra you can put out will go a long way to helping these feathered friends. If possible, try to provide a selection of different seeds, nuts and even table scraps (like fruits, or cheese) for visiting birds. And don’t be put off if you don’t have a purpose built feeder either, simply leave food on a tray somewhere high up and you’ll attract some of these unique small bird species in no time. 

Create places for birds to keep warm 

bird leaving bird box

Like us humans, one of the biggest challenges for birds during the winter is finding a cosy spot to keep warm during the coldest nights of the year. A simple nesting box can meet all of these needs throughout the year. Aim to place it in an area sheltered from the elements and out of reach of ground predators like cats or foxes. This will give bird species a safe place to roost when the weather is chilly and has the added bonus of being the perfect spot to build a nest and lay eggs when spring eventually rolls around. 

Provide a source of water for birds 

birds in birdbath hero

Even more important during the winter months is a fresh supply of water, especially when the temperature drops below freezing. Try to provide fresh water in a shallow bowl each night so that birds have a place to stop, drink and clean themselves when other sources are frozen over. If you have a pond and it freezes over it’s also important to make a hole in the ice. This prevents the build up of potentially harmful gases which can harm any fish, newts or frogs that may be hibernating at the bottom. The best way to make a hole in the ice is to place a hot pan on the surface and allow it to melt slowly, if you break the ice by force it can cause damage to wildlife living underneath and plants on the surface. 

Let nature take over to help hedgehogs, frogs, and toads

wild winter garden

Good advice year-round, if you can resist the temptation to prune, mow and otherwise control your garden, all the better for the wildlife that lives there (particularly during the winter months). Unkempt areas in your garden provide the perfect habitat for hibernating creatures like hedgehogs, frogs, and toads as well as helping to improve soil quality and encouraging more species to make their home in your garden. And as an added bonus you’ll save a load of time on maintenance as well.

Don’t forget about insects either

bug hotel

It’s not just birds, mammals and amphibians that need a safe place to spend the winter, insects also need dry and warm shelters to hibernate when the weather turns colder. Simple to create, there are a few different ways to build a bug hotel to help out your garden’s resident minibeasts. All you’ll need to get started is bricks, wooden boxes, logs or pallets piled up in a sheltered spot in your garden, leaving small gaps between them. Once you’ve assembled the structure, you just need to fill the gaps you left with natural materials, ideal for nesting creepy crawlies. Stuff the gaps with dry leaves, dead grass, twigs, pieces of bark and pine cones to help create insulation for visiting insects and then simply leave your hotel undisturbed, (the start of winter is perhaps the best time to build one since there’s lots of natural materials around leftover from autumn). 

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