Kildare's Wildlife Watch: How can we help wintering birds and animals?

With Nuala Madigan of the Irish Peatland Conservation Council

Kildare's Wildlife Watch: How can we help wintering birds and animals?

Robin. Photo: IPCC

Although the autumn leaves continue to fall from our local trees, the clocks changing, bringing shorter days, coupled with the dropping air temperatures this time of year is telling me winter is almost upon us.

It’s the time of year that we pack away or cover our garden furniture, cut the lawn and trim back shrubs for the last time this year. As we retreat indoors, don’t forget about our community wildlife that has brought colour and music to our gardens over the past growing season. Our wildlife is well adapted to winter, but birds and mammals which do not hibernate can always benefit from us giving them a helping hand through the winter months.

So what can we do for them? Similar to human beings, wildlife need food and shelter — so the first helpful hand we can give wildlife is to check for their presence, as they are already in search of a winter shelter!

As you gather autumn leaves in your garden, why not sweep some under the garden hedge, which will create a shelter for visiting hedgehogs and insects.

These leaves will also decompose over the winter, with the help of nature’s decomposers, and add valuable nutrients back into the soil to help your hedgerow thrive next season.

Winter can bring freezing nighttime temperatures, making the ground hard and difficult for wildlife to search for food.

Providing seeds for wildlife in your gardens will help them, but also encourage them to return to your garden next season and feed on slugs and snails and other invertebrates enjoying a tasty meal from your vegetable patch!

Water is important for all life, and similar to the soil it can freeze in winter, so regularly topping up shallow drinking containers left for wildlife is very beneficial.

So don’t forget that helping your community’s wildlife this winter is going to be good for local gardens during the next growing season by returning nutrients to the soil and encouraging natural predators, reducing our need for chemicals.

If you would like help identifying or to learn more about a wildlife species contact me via e-mail bogs@ipcc.ie.

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