CHESHIRE Wildlife Trust is encouraging people to get out, enjoy and support wildlife this Christmas period with its top things to try this holiday.
Charlotte Harris, chief executive officer at Cheshire Wildlife Trust, said: “Winter is always a time when people think that there is nothing to see or do in the great outdoors – with hedgehogs hibernating and some of our summer birds flying off to warmer climes. The naturally cold weather can make us what to retreat inside – but actually our wild places and creatures can be just as inspiring at this time of year as any other; so I’d encourage everyone to get outdoors, explore and have fun.”
If you are planning time in the garden, try to resist the temptation to cut back all those dead flower stems - they could be being used as a winter safe house by garden-friendly insects such as lacewings or ladybirds. Instead why not make some time to create a log pile for newts, toads and frogs to hide. This could also be the ideal thing to give your Christmas tree a new purpose in the New Year. Remove its branches and saw the trunk into logs. Then pile your logs and place your branches on top.
Holly berries are attractive to birds
Another activity that will keep you warm whilst in the garden is raking up any fallen leaves. If you chop them up and put them in a corner of your garden, you’ll have some useful leaf-mould that your pots and borders will love in 2018. Or if cold weather’s too much, you could always order some wildflower seeds online to create your own mini-meadow next year – the bees and butterflies will thank you for it.
The Christmas holiday is a great time for getting out for a walk. Things to look out for at this time of year include large flocks of geese, woodpigeons and starlings. If you’re walking at dusk you may even be lucky enough to see a starling mumuration, where large numbers of them swoop through the sky together in mesmerising patterns before settling down to roost for the night.
If you spot trees and bushes with winter berries you might see blackbirds, redwings, fieldfares and other thrushes. On the right day there may even be a waxwing. Don’t forget to listen too – robins sing all year round to keep their territories and tawny owls call more in winter than at other times of year and often before night fall; listen out for that familiar twit-twoo.
Footprints in the snow
Winter is a great time for seeking footprints in the mud (or snow, if we get some more!). Can you spot the distinctive shape of a rabbit jump, or the footprints of a fox? Or take a look at the night sky can you learn to identify some star constellations – Orion and The Plough are good examples. It is thought that some birds use the stars to help them navigate during migration.
Perhaps you can event spot some early signs of the season changing, now that the shortest day is passed – an early tree bud, or a snowdrop starting to grow.
Look after wildlife
If you support wildlife this winter through providing some extra food, they’ll reward you with frequent visits – giving you something to view even on the coldest of days. Like us, birds have varied tastes, so if you put up a mix of foodstuffs, you’re sure to attract the largest variety.
Fat balls and grated hard cheese to provide a good source of energy for birds, and left over apples and pears are a hit with blackbirds and thrushes. Seeds especially nyjer seeds are popular with finches and peanuts are loved by woodpeckers and nuthatches. Don’t forget to leave some food on the ground too, for robins and dunnocks.
In warmer spells hedgehogs sometimes wake for a brief spell and move locations; you could buy dedicated hedgehog food to leave out just in case or supply cat or dog food made from white meat.
Whilst not the most exciting job – certainly one that will benefit your feathered friends is cleaning your bird feeders. Warm water and weak disinfectant is all that’s required to keep your feeding areas healthy and safe.
Long-tailed tits at a birdfeeder pictured by Amy Lewis
Make a wildlife New Year resolution
With New Year around the corner, why not start thinking about your resolutions for 2018? Why not make next year the year you do something for wildlife – whether that is in your garden or through volunteering, making a regular effort to appreciate wildlife or even joining your local wildlife trust. Cheshire Wildlife Trust will be offering a membership discount in January.
Perhaps you have been inspired by BBC’s Blue Planet and you’re going to reduce the amount of plastic you use? Maybe you’re going to make more effort to walk regularly, improving your fitness and your interaction with wildlife? Or perhaps you’d like to learn more about wildlife or volunteer to support it?
If Cheshire Wildlife Trust have inspired you – why not visit their website at www.cheshirewildlifetrust.org to explore places to walk, ways to support wildlife and how to volunteer.