Temperatures are plummeting; Holiday lights are being blown down on Union Street, and it’s been snowing in Aberdeenshire. Local wildlife needs your help to make it through another winter writes Suzanne Kelly.
If you have a window box or a large garden; if you live near a park or open waste ground, here are some tips.
All living things need water; birds need it to drink and to bathe. Can you keep a shallow bowl of water outside, keeping it clean? Then you’ll be doing a large service to wildlife.
If you can afford to buy specialist bird seed or suet and seed balls, that’s great. But birds will also be grateful for your kitchen scraps, particularly in winter. Bits of cheese, pet food, cooked pasta, suet, fruit, cereal, and nuts – even cooked eggs and eggshells will be appreciated. Whatever you choose to feed your birds on, make sure it is kept clean and is out of the reach of predators.
Insects, bees, butterflies and birds will greatly appreciate it if you can leave a patch of lawn to grow tall. This is crucial for many species. A pile of old wood makes a shelter for insects and small animals. Bird houses and bee boxes can likewise be bought or made (you will find instructions on the Internet)
Domestic dogs and cats do not have the same qualities for surviving harsh weather as wild creatures. Do not leave your animals outside overnight. Some cats may like to come and go at all hours, if you can put in a cat flap that might be a solution. But domestic animals will suffer or possibly perish in extreme weather. Do not assume it is OK to leave them outside – it is not.
And just in case there are some people who have not got the message yet – do not leave animals unattended in cars. This is advice from the RSPCA and the Scottish SPCA. In the summer we are still reading stories of dogs dying – they can’t sweat; a closed car which might be a bit uncomfortable to people is an oven to them. And unfortunately there have been more than a few incidents of dogs being stolen from cars and from in front of shops.
Whatever the weather, if you are leaving an animal alone, if something happened to you out of the blue – what would happen to them. The advice is – don’t do it.
Gardening for Wildlife
It might not seem like the ideal time of year to do any gardening, but it’s a great time to do some planning. A wildlife garden even in the city can help our overall wildlife population. Habitats are being lost at an alarming rate to development. People are increasingly getting rid of their lawns in favour of parking or paving.
Grass is integral to wildlife survival – birds need to hunt worms; the soil supports all sorts of life, and plants are essential to all forms of wildlife.
It’s never been easier to plan a wildlife garden – the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds has an online service which will tailor a gardening plan to your exact situation. The Homes for Wildlife scheme will give you dozens of suggestions – most of which couldn’t be easier to implement.
Visit http://www.rspb.org.uk/applications/homesforwildlife/home.aspx for details.