6 ways to help wildlife in your garden this autumn
Autumn is an important time for a variety of animals and wildlife. Some species, like hedgehogs, get preparing their hibernaculum ready for the coldest months of the year. Others, like Grey Bats, will enter a state of dormancy from which they can awaken in search of food.
Every garden can help by providing somewhere cool and dry for the wildlife to rest undisturbed until the spring. Here are some easy things you can do to help.
Male amphibians, such as frogs, will spend the winter at the bottom of ponds amongst the mud breathing through their skin. However, if the pond freezes over gases expelled by the decaying plant matter could get trapped and poison them. To prevent this, remove any debris now and float a tennis or golf ball in the water to stop the surface from freezing.
Leave your borders intact in winter so decaying plant matter can be used as bedding for small mammals and insects. Clumps of grasses may offer the perfect hibernaculum material for a hedgehog, while hollow plant stems and seed heads provide nooks and crannies for invertebrates. Seed heads are also a source of oil-rich food for birds which may visit to feed.
When trimming bushes or trees take a moment to think about the invertebrates and small mammals that will require shelter. Instead of putting all the cuttings onto your compost heap, place them in a neat pile at the back of a border or in a plant pot on its side as a shelter for these little creatures. The same technique can be used when clearing fallen leaves from your lawns and paths. Leaf litter is a brilliant form of insulation for a hibernating dwellers.
Stacking plant pots in a sheltered spot offers shelter for bees and other insects needing a cool, dry place.
A variety of species, including Grass Snakes and Queen Bumblebees, find compost head the perfect place to hibernate. If your heap is in plastic structure with a lid, this will keep it dry, but be sure to provide access for hibernators at the base by raising the bin off the ground. If your bin is open to the elements,cover it with a thick piece of old carpet to keep it dry and insulated. Avoid disturbing the compost heap between autumn and April, which is the time all species have finished their long snooze.
Even though birds do not hibernate they still require a lot of energy to keep themselves warm at night. Clear out nest boxes now so that birds can take shelter during cold nights.
Butterflies and Ladybirds spend the winter as adults, sometimes entering out homes in autumn where they find conditions to be cool and dry. However, when the heating is turned on they will wake up and spend energy flying around. If you find either of these inside your home, transfer it to your shed or garage, where the temperature will stay constant. Use an empty box to move them, make sure that it can exit freely in spring via a window or door.
Be vigilant if entering your loft during winter as you may disturb hibernating bats.