With just a little effort it is possible to turn your garden into a haven for birds and wildlife. Things to think about are plants, accessories such as bird tables, bird baths and bird feeders, providing food, water and shelter for wildlife and keeping predators away.
The first thing you need to think about are the types of plants for your garden. Plants will provide food, shelter and nesting sites. You will need to plant native trees and shrubs such as birch, oak and willow to attract butterflies and bees as well as insects, which will be a natural food supply for birds, mammals and amphibians. Wildflowers such as foxglove, cornflower and honeysuckle will also attract butterflies and bees, and flowers with a seed head such as sunflowers will attract birds. Try leaving a patch of lawn to go wild – not only will you find wildflowers amongst it, but the long grass will provide shelter and attract insects. It is simple to attract birds to your garden with a well stocked bird table or feeder. Make sure your feeders are sited somewhere quiet so that birds are not disturbed as they feed and keep them away from bushes and shrubs where predators could hide ready for an ambush.
You can put all sorts of food out for birds such as kitchen scraps like fruit, rice, cheese, bread, peanuts and bacon. Or you can buy ready made seed mixes and fat balls, some of which are formulated to attract particular species of birds. For other animals you can also buy special food for hedgehogs and badgers. Make sure you clear away uneaten food regularly so you don’t attract unwanted wildlife such as rats.
A bird bath will provide water for drinking and bathing and is especially important during the winter when the birds’ normal supply of water may be frozen.
Make sure you clean your bird bath to prevent the build of algae – you will find that you need to clean your bird bath more often in the summer. A nest box will attract breeding birds and with the decline of natural nesting sites in recent years more and more birds are using gardens to have their chicks. Birds will also use a nest box for shelter in the winter and you can also buy homes for butterflies, bees ladybirds and lacewings.
Leave a pile of logs, twigs and dead leaves in one corner of your garden which will provide a home for lots of creepy-crawlies, mosses and lichens and even a bat. Be careful not to disturb the woodpile in the winter as a hedgehog may use it for hibernation. A garden pond will be a haven for all kinds of plants, birds and animals as well as providing drinking and bathing water. Stock your pond with native plants taken from another pond or garden centre – remember it is illegal to take plants from the wild. Insects and small invertebrates will find your pond quickly and you will eventually attract frogs, toads and newts. Add some frogspawn from a nearby pond if you want to help nature along. . If your pond is big enough you may be lucky enough to see some dragonflies.
Large, exotic specimens of fish may look attractive but they will eat insects, tadpoles and froglets and are likely to be taken by heron. Instead, choose some minnows or sticklebacks. By turning your garden into a mini nature reserve you will be doing your bit to help local wildlife and have the enjoyment of seeing animals and birds close up.