Giving hibernators a helping hand

©Tom Marshall - hedgehog

Over the winter months there are lots of animals that seem to disappear, many of them hibernating or migrating to sunnier climes. What can you do to help our winter wildlife?

Over the winter months there are lots of animals that seem to disappear, many of them hibernating or migrating to sunnier climes. The winter so far has been relatively mild, but temperatures are set to continue dropping as January ends and this could spell disaster for some of our wildlife.

There have been records of bats and hedgehogs this month, which should be hibernating at this time of year and may struggle to find food if temperatures drop further. Similarly species that are expanding their range northwards as the climate changes may be worse off after periods of cold weather to which they are not adapted; declines are often made worse if their habitat area is small in the newly colonised areas.

After last years ‘beast from the east’ research by the British Trust for Ornithology has shown that Kingfishers and waders suffered some of the steepest declines after the snows as their feeding grounds froze over. Waders of some species will be preparing to migrate in spring to their breeding grounds so fattening up would have been especially important.

But there are many ways to help wildlife in winter including providing feed for birds (or hedgehogs if you know those frequenting your garden are awake), putting out boxes that animals and birds can make their winter home in (one nest box was found to contain 60 wrens roosting in winter!), leaving log, leaf or rock piles for overwintering insects, amphibians and reptiles and keeping a float in your pond so it doesn’t freeze over.

Another way to help is by taking part in the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch this weekend. Simply take an hour between the 26-28th to record the birds in your garden, helping give an idea of general trends for garden bird species.