Thankfully, there are plenty of practical things we can do to help animals and insects survive until spring. Here are just a few of them.
1. Leave your borders alone
Fallen leaves, dead twigs and windfall fruit are superb sources of food and shelter for foraging dormice, hedgehogs and birds, so avoid the temptation to tidy up your borders until spring. Frogs also use damp leaves as a winter hideout, while ladybirds and other insects love to hide inside old plant stems.
It’s also a good idea to leave your compost pile alone until the spring, in case any visiting hedgehogs decide to hibernate there. However, if you happen to spot a very small hedgehog in your garden during the daytime, we suggest calling your local hedgehog rescue charity for advice, as it’s probably young and may not survive without help.
2. Provide shelter
Bird boxes provide a safe shelter for smaller birds during winter weather, and you may even find that the birds return to nest in the same box when spring arrives. Boxes with a 32mm hole are best for smaller birds such as blue tits and sparrows, while open boxes will attract robins, wrens and wagtails.
The RSPB suggests situating your bird box in a shady spot that’s also inaccessible to cats and squirrels. If your box is at least two metres high you’ll attract robins and wrens, while house martins and sparrows prefer boxes that are high up in the eaves.
Of course, it’s not just birds that need to find shelter from the cold. Insects also find winter a struggle, with many surviving as eggs, larvae or pupae in cracks and crevices. You can help them to find a home by providing a couple of logs or blocks of wood drilled with small holes.
3. Fill up your feeders
Whether you buy them or make your own, fat balls are excellent sources of energy for birds. However, if yours comes in a mesh bag, we recommend removing this as birds can become tangled in the mesh.
You could also sprinkle some seed on your bird table, although we recommend checking the ingredients before you buy, as smaller birds can’t manage seed containing a lot of barley, lentils or beans. Birds are creatures of habit, so try to put the seed out in the same place every day.
Access to clean water is also crucial for birds, so why not consider investing in a bird bath? To prevent ice from forming on frosty days, simply pop a table tennis ball into the water and allow the breeze to move it around. If the water has already frozen, you could even treat the birds to a warm bath by pouring hot water over the ice.
Do you have any hedges or climbing plants in your garden? If you do, don’t cut them back just yet, as they could provide plenty of food for your feathered friends. Native trees and shrubs such as rowan, holly, wild roses and hawthorn are also great sources of food.
We’d love to know how you’re welcoming wildlife into your garden this winter, so why not share your ideas in the comments below?