By Jess Wilson..
Giving nature a home is incredibly rewarding, using your own space in your own garden is even better since you can watch it flourish every day and see all the wildlife which are drawn to it. But what about those of us who haven’t got big grassy gardens with wildflowers popping up everywhere? What can we do to help support wildlife?
One of the first things which spring to mind are bird feeders. Easy to get a hold of; easy to fill and you can get seeds from anywhere. But before setting up your feeder there’s a few things you need to think about. You want to make sure you’re supporting wildlife rather than preparing an all you can eat buffet for the neighbour’s cat. So have a think about where the best place is to put the feeder, this can be somewhere high with no potential perches, so nowhere cats can climb up and pounce onto unsuspecting feeding birds. You also want to make sure other pesky animals can’t get to the seeds. Rats go crazy for seeds, especially pumpkin and sunflower seeds… Being notoriously smart, rats can become an issue when seeds start falling around the area so try and create some sort of hold or dish to ensure the seeds stay off the ground. Rats are a part of nature but when a food source becomes readily available they can become a nuisance so be careful.
Why not recycle a couple of your used bottles and make a home-made bird feeder? Simply wash out an empty bottle and puncture a hole into the side of the bottle about an inch or two from the bottom. Puncture another hole directly opposite and thread a stick or a lollypop stick between the holes long enough to give birds somewhere to perch. Just above your perch sticks puncture another hole, make these ones a bit larger so birds can get to the seeds but not large enough for all the seeds to fall out. Fill the bottom of your bottle with sand (this helps steady the feeders on windy days and prevents seeds from going to waste) up to the middle of your perch and the pecking hole. Simply fill your bottle with seeds and Voila, a home-made bird feeder. Now all you have to do is screw the lid back on and hang it somewhere safe.
Another great way to keep wildlife fed is to create fat balls. It’s a great activity to do with the kids. Its different; its fun and its messy, what’s not to love? And its so simple. Just mush up a bit of lard or peanut butter, role it around in some seeds (maybe add a few dried mealworms into there?) and make sure you really squish it so that the seeds get right into the lard, if the lard isn’t sticking between your fingers it isn’t squished enough! Grab a beaker, I like to use used yogurt tubs since they’re easy to get hold of and it’s a good way to recycle your waste.
Another idea is small plant pots, they look much more aesthetically pleasing but it does mean you’ll have to go out and buy some (unless you’re already a keen gardener with tonnes to spare). Lie the beaker on it’s side and pierce a hole so you can threat some string through and use it to tie it up. Ideally you want the thread to run straight through to the opposite side of the beaker to stop the fat ball getting soggy from the rain if the beaker flips over. Squash the lard into your beaker and Boom! You have yourself your very own fat ball…
While feeding the birds is important, giving wildlife a fresh supply of water is just as helpful. Especially in Urban and Suburban locations, wildlife can struggle to find a water supply. Having a bird bath or even just filling an old bucket up with water and keeping it in the corner of the yard will help.
If you wanted to go the extra mile you could even create a mini pond using plastic lining and bricks, perhaps even make a water fountain. Once a pond has established you’ll be amazed at what could be lurking in your yard. The possibilities are endless and you don’t need to spend a tonne of money. There are hundreds of cheap and easy DIY pond ideas for yards, have a look around.
So, we’ve fed and watered the wildlife how about making a home for them so you can enjoy them even more? Many people may think a yard isn’t the ideal environment for wildlife and that nothing will ever come or that you can’t help wildlife if you have a yard. That’s not the case! You can attach bird boxes onto your house, just remember to keep in mind other animals which may see the bird box as a snacking opportunity. With bird boxes, keep them high and sheltered from the elements. Facing them North – East is a good way to ensure they are sheltered from rain and sun. Different bird species have different preferences, so have a look in your yard and see what species visit the most. Some species prefer small holes as an entrance while others prefer large wide entrances, so do your research, have a look on the RSPB website and see which bird box suits your birds.
Slugs; worms; spiders and woodlice, the creatures of many nightmares! But actually, if you want to support wildlife, making a home for these guys is your best shot. Being a source of food for a variety of species invertebrates encourage other wildlife into an area. How about making a bug hotel? It doesn’t have to be anything fancy… All you have to do is throw in a load of rubble, a bit of soil and maybe some rotten wood and there you have it, your own little bug hotel. Of course, you can make it look nice while still serving the same purpose. Disused wooden crates create an amazing foundation for a bug hotel, you can make them as big or as small as you want! Got a load of unwanted pottery or old plant pots? Stick them in and fill them with soil and grass, get creative with a bit of sand even. You could fill the crates up with sticks and stones. Building a bug hotel can become a work of art, you could even attract more than just bugs! Imagine checking on your guests and finding a lizard chilling out in there? Or a family of mice? The bug hotel can serve as a 5* bed and breakfast for a variety of species so if you want to support wildlife, a bug hotel is the way to go.
Have you ever dreamt of a beautiful wildflower meadow in your back garden where you can sit with a cup of coffee on a morning and watch the bees work hard and the butterflies flutter? Well dream no more! By partitioning an area using bricks or logs you can fill the area with compost (remember peat-free compost is the way to go!), sprinkle a load of wildflower seeds (either packs from the shops or your own self-gathered stash) sprinkle more soil over the top of the seeds and watch them grow. The beauty of wildflowers is they are incredibly hardy and so take little maintenance. When they begin to seed crunch the seeds off the flower’s head and into a paper bag to store ready for next year, but keep them dry! If you buy the mixed wildflowers from the shops they will indicate what species you’re likely to attract, bees; butterflies or even if it’s just for the colours.
Even just by creating one of the above suggestions you could help towards supporting our wildlife while making your yard look amazing. They’re small gestures but to our wildlife it can mean the difference between life and death. There are hundreds of ideas and designs which will help to inspire you, breath-taking creations which were made from unwanted items. Get creative to support our wildlife!