With the dry spell continuing and forecast to get hotter and more settled from this weekend, it’s turning into a bit of a struggle for some of our wildlife. Of course, for the sun lovers such as butterflies and dragonflies it’s turning out to be the best spring and summer for years! Most wildlife however could really do with a helping hand right now, and we can all do our bit by doing just a few simple things in our gardens.
Time for a bath. A bird bath!
The most obvious need is for water. Not just for drinking, but also to help keep feathers in good condition. There are a couple of points to be aware of here. Firstly, the water needs to be fresh ideally a complete change every other day at least. It’s surprising how quickly it will become contaminated especially in hot, sunny conditions.
Secondly, use a shallow bowl or at least make sure the edges have a gentle gradient. This will allow birds and mammals to be able to drink without the possibility of falling in and drowning. It also provides an ideal opportunity for a good bath, without getting too wet! Finally make sure the bowl is near shelter, but not so near that it provides cover for cats to creep up on unsuspecting animals or birds taking a drink. If you have plenty of water available, why not have a go at making a muddy area - many birds and bees use mud to build their nests.
Look after your pond
Keep an eye on garden ponds as water levels start to drop. By all means top them up, ideally using water that has stood for a couple of days or water from a butt. Only use water direct from a tap as a last resort as this will result in nitrate/nutrient build up in the water. Again, if using water from a tap do try to allow it to stand in a container for a while before adding it to allow the temperature of the water being added to match that of the pond.
If you do get an algal bloom in your pond from increased nutrients, fish out as much as you can using a stick leaving it on the side of the pond so that any invertebrates can crawl back to the water. Adding a handful of barley tied with string will help to combat algae.
Don't be too tidy in the garden
Many of our garden friends such as frogs and toads will be hidden away in log piles, under rocks and other shaded areas. If you have these in your garden, then take care not to disturb them and if you haven’t, now is the ideal time to start making one! It’s also a valid excuse to use this as a reason not to tidy up the garden right now. Long grass and overgrown patches will be providing great cover for a huge range of insects and animals, in turn acting as a great source of natural food for others.
Don't forget that food is important as well
By all means provide food for animals and birds but don’t use dry foods such as bread. Birds will tend to feed their young on only the freshest of nature's treats, with caterpillars, worms and insects being top of the menu choice for many of our song birds. Adults will appreciate the opportunity to grab a bite from a fat ball or maybe sunflower hearts, enabling them to keep up their energy levels while they hunt out natural food for their young.
Mammals such as hedgehogs and badgers will be having a tough time trying to find worms and the like, so a bowl of food for them will be very gratefully received! Don’t use dry food though you can buy tins of hedgehog food (very similar to dog/cat food).
Finally, if you do happen to come across wildlife sheltering in the shade, please try not to disturb it unduly. Wildlife that is already weakened from struggling in this dry weather can quickly become a casualty if it is disturbed from it’s hiding place and cannot reach cover quickly.
Remember, water is easy for us to get hold of. Imagine how hard life would be if you didn’t have access to your kitchen tap!