SWAN notes

I WROTE a couple of months ago about how the changeable seasons seemed to be having a strange effect on wildlife, especially the mildness, but the recent cold weather has proved that we can still “look forward” to freezing temperatures and possibly snow.

Cold weather, especially after a period of mild weather can have a very negative effect on wildlife and make it hard for them to survive, but there are a few things we can do to help out.

Obviously feeding the birds is one of the easiest things you can do and is vital at times when food is scare or frozen. Fat balls, peanuts, fruit, seeds and bacon rinds are all great to put out. Coconut halved and hung up go down well, especially with blue tits and you can make your own fat balls with suet or lard and plenty of seeds. Also please do remember to keep any bird feeders well topped up as birds can become dependent on their food sources and if it disappears then they can find themselves with big problems. There is a robin at my work that comes every day to the feeder on our window. We will be stocking it up with seed before we close the office for Christmas.

Feeding birds isn’t all that you can do to help them though. Providing fresh water is also a great help to them as it not only provides them with somewhere to drink but also to bathe to keep their feathers in prime condition so they can remain dry and warm throughout the winter months.

A lot of people think bird boxes are only used during the summer months but that is not the case. They are often used by birds during the winter months to take shelter in at night and to keep warm. So if you haven’t got a bird box in your garden or attached to your house then this is as good a time as any to put one up. However if you have one already and it was used to nest in this year then this is a really good time to clean out the old nest as well as the box. Although you may think that any old nesting materials will keep any birds that use it during in winter warm, parasites and disease can build up it the nesting material and cause problems. It is best to take out as much old nesting material as you can and then pour in a kettle of boiling water if it is safe to do. This will hopefully kill off anything nasty.

Even if you cannot help out wildlife this year you can start planning for next year so why not think about buying or making a hedgehog box, bat box or insect hotel. You could think about where you could sow some wildflowers or where to put a log pile for amphibians to use as shelter. Even if you cannot help the wildlife directly then you can always help by supporting the Berwick Swan and Wildlife Trust.

Hopefully this winter is not going to be too harsh but if we all do our bit for our wildlife then much more of it will make it through the winter to next spring and beyond.

GRAEME WILSON

Should you find an animal in need, or need advice please phone HQ on (01289) 302882 or visit www.swan-trust.org.