Winter is a hard time for lots of animals, but there are some things you can do to help them survive the colder months.
Our garden birds don’t hibernate and have to keep going even though there is little food around, especially when the ground is hard and the days are short. You can help by providing shelter; shrubs and wood or rock piles create spaces to hide in. You can also buy roosting pouches, and if you already have bird boxes up they might be used over winter.
It is important to keep providing water over winter, please remember to prevent your birdbath freezing or melt it every day. Placing it in a sunny spot can help. You can also line the bath with a little bit of pond liner, then when the water freezes you can simply lift the ice out and replace it with fresh water. Heated bird baths are available too. You can also pour warm water onto the ice to melt it, but be careful; some bird baths won’t tolerate the temperature change.
Continuing to feed the birds is a good idea. This time of year provide fatty foods such as suet or any leftover bacon rind (cut up) or cheese you may have. If you use a feeder, cages are safer than plastic nets. Don’t forget to keep your feeders clean; you can buy wildlife friendly anti-bacterial cleaners and if you buy it in concentrate and dilute it yourself; it’s cheaper. Keep providing seeds and nuts too, and overripe fruit will also be welcomed by many birds.
Planting trees or shrubs that produce fruit or berries is a nice long term solution to help birds over winter. Avoid pruning them until the end of winter to give birds the most chance to eat the berries.
Leave some hollow stemmed plants un-pruned until early spring; insects can overwinter in the stems; it doesn’t have to be untidy, they can provide architectural interest and can look lovely when the spiders decorate them with dew covered webs. Piles of leaves and compost heaps will make cosy homes for insects, toads and perhaps grass snakes and slow worms. Spreading fallen leaves over flowerbeds provides mulch and great foraging ground for blackbirds and thrushes.
If you have a pond that freezes over you need to make a hole in the ice to allow oxygen in. Rest a pan of hot water over the ice – don’t pour hot water on to it.
I hope some of these ideas prove useful for you.
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We made a birdbath heater, you can see how HERE. We haven’t had snow since we made it though! It heats the water slightly from underneath the bath. You can buy heated baths or immersion heaters if you don’t want to make one, just check they are safe for wildlife.
I have found CJ Wildlife a good place to shop http://www.birdfood.co.uk they provide a number of bird foods (including bird safe peanut butter!), feeders and wildlife attracting plants.
The RSPB always have a good range of quality bird foods of course! http://shopping.rspb.org.uk
ETA: Video of how to use a candle to warm a bird bath: