Your natural neighbours will soon be feeling the pinch. The plenty of harvest season will be dwindling and the leaner winter months will test the metal of the birds, mammals and other creatures that share your green space.
There is a huge amount you can do to help soften the blow over the coming months, from modifying your gardening techniques to actively providing for a host of species that may be resident or visiting.
Looking after birds in your garden
The most readily accessible feed is of course aimed at your garden birds. Anything you can do will help see your avian neighbours through the tough times, but the more varied the food and feeders are that you provide, the wider the variety of species you will attract.
Get a purpose built nyger feeder and stock it with nyger seed. Goldfinches flock to this fine seed and the feeder design ensures that they and other fine-billed species, like siskin and redpoll, have easy access to the meal, avoiding conflict with some of the larger, tougher species. For these, like greenfinch, chaffinch, tree and house sparrow, more standard seed feeders are favoured. These have more open hopper style feeding ports and can take high fat, high nutrition feeds like sunflower seed, millet and hemp.
The old favourite, raw peanuts, will suit members of the tit family, especially great, blue and coal tit, as well as the local great spotted woodpecker. Be sure to present the peanuts in a wire mesh feeder with a mesh gauge of no more than 6mm. Don’t offer peanuts (or any other bird food) in nylon mesh bags. Though some foods sometimes come presented in these, the mesh can act as a trap, ensnaring the feet and claws of birds and subjecting them to a slow and grizzly death!
To round off your bird feeding station, offer fat balls, blocks or pellets in suitable feeders. In addition, you can now get peanut butter made specifically for birds that are presented in glass jar feeders and both of these will give an energy rich boost for a wide variety of species, especially the delicate long-tailed tit as well as woodpeckers and other members of the tit family.
Hygiene is key to a healthy population of garden birds. Be sure to clean your feeders on a regular basis with a mild disinfecting solution such as Milton (the stuff you use to sterilise babies’ drinking bottles) to avoid your feeding station becoming a hive of infection.
Don’t forget that, as well as food, your garden birds need water. Be sure to offer fresh water on a daily basis in a shallow bird-bath and whilst you’re at it, offer some seeds, cereal flakes and fruit on a ground feeder which will cater for birds that find it tricky to cling on to other types of bird feeder, like blackbirds and thrushes. For more information about feeding your garden birds, visit my website.
Other wildlife in your garden
There’s a load more you can do in the garden to make it more wildlife friendly too. Create a log pile somewhere out of the way and protected from the worst of the weather. This will offer sanctuary to myriad mini beasts and in turn provide an ideal foraging spot for birds such as wrens. The same cover may be used by small mammals like voles and wood mice and these in turn provide the occasional meal for nocturnal garden visitors like tawny owls and foxes.
A garden pond is essential to boosting biodiversity in your home patch and you can establish a pond at this time of year ready for the emergence of amphibians in the spring. I have a preformed pond over at my website that is ideal for amphibians as it has a sloping section to provide easy access in and out of the water.
Autumn is a great time to prepare and plant a wildflower patch. Choose an area of ground that is exposed to good light and remove the top turf and first few centimetres of top soil. Dig the whole patch over to a depth of about 10cm and sew it with a mix of native wildflowers. Choose a combination of annual species that will give a good show in the first year, and perennials that will establish over time.
A super starter mix might include cornflower, poppy, corn marigold, corn chamomile, red campion, ox eye daisy, wild carrot, yarrow, bird’s-foot trefoil and tufted vetch. This will provide colour, nectar and pollen over many months of the spring and summer and should offer your local bees and butterflies a vital resource that has become all too rare over the countryside at large.
For more information about garden wildlife and how you can help restore nature to your neighbourhood, visit www.simonkingwildlife.com/.