While we’re all confined, I’ve noticed so many more people taking the time to watch and observe the beauty of nature around us. It’s a pleasure to see people posting about it on our social media channels. Getting outdoors daily and connecting with nature is just so vital for all of our well-being in general, but especially right now. Whether you’ve got a balcony, window ledge or a garden, there are many things we can all do to encourage wildlife to visit. Then sit back and enjoy watching wildlife going about their business as usual!
1. Feed the birds
Birds benefit from having food provided all year round, and the more variety you can offer the more species you’ll attract. Peanuts, sunflower seeds, niger seed, fat balls and dried mealworms will bring in a huge range. Don’t forget a shallow dish of water too. Place feeders near some cover if possible so the birds feel safe stopping by, not out in the middle of a lawn or patio. If you don’t have a garden, not to worry, you can also get suction cup window feeders which will allow you to see your feathered visitors up real close. And everyone has a window!
2. Sow wildflower seeds
Buy some wildflower seed packets or a seed bomb online, and sow on a bare patch of earth, or in a pot, container or window box according to pack instructions. These usually contain a mix of native and ornamental flowering plants that are just perfect for pollinators like bees, hoverflies and butterflies. So not only do they create a wonderful display of colour, but they also benefit some of our most threatened insects. You can get various mixes that suit woodland shade, full sun, dry or damp conditions so choose your spot and get sowing now.
3. Make a container pond
Any water in your outdoor space will act as a magnet for thirsty wildlife like birds, insects and mammals. And it doesn’t have to be a massive pond. Why not try making a pond in miniature using an empty plastic container, plant pot (with no drainage holes) or an old half barrel. Any watertight container will do, and you can do this on a windowsill too. You’ll be astonished what comes to visit; damsel and dragonflies, lots of microscopic water creatures if you look closely, and if you’re lucky maybe even a newt, toad or frog!
4. Stop mowing the lawn
Put your feet up and forget about lawn mowing this summer. Not only is it terrible for the environment, but we’re also running out of grass in urban areas, especially gardens, as people use decking, paving and (cringe alert!) Astroturf instead. Not good for flooding risk either, all this hard landscaping. But it’s also an ecological desert for wildlife. So to counteract it, what if we all left even a portion of our lawns unmown this year? Wildflowers will spring up and the long grasses with their attractive seed heads provide cover and food for an abundance of insects, including lots of butterfly and moth species. Insects are at the bottom of the food chain, so with all this new bug life you’ll get more bats and birds and other creatures too.
5. Put up a nest box
If you haven’t already put up a nest box for birds, get cracking. The avian property market is hot, hot, hot right now so you need to be quick. There are various designs available online; blue tits, great tits and sparrows like circular hole-fronted boxes (a different diameter for each, 25mm, 28mm, 32mm respectively). Robins, wrens and wagtails will use open-fronted boxes. An old teapot or boot placed deep in a hedge can even turn into a robin des res, just be sure to place the teapot spout down and boot toe down for drainage! And if you have a nest box that’s been up for ages and never used, change it to a different location this year. They need to be out of direct sunlight, ideally facing between north and east. Hole fronted ones on a tree or wall 2-4m high. Under 2m high in dense cover for an open-fronted robin box.
Don’t forget to tune in across our social media channels for what happens in our Blue Tit camera nest box!
6. Build a log pile or compost heap
Find logs, branches or even woody cuttings from shrubs and trees in your garden and pile them up in a quiet area, leaving a few spaces in between. Rotting wood is an important habitat for insects and other invertebrates, which feed lots of other creatures in your garden ecosystem. Log piles also attract the nationally rare Stag Beetle, whose larva feeds on dead wood. London and Ealing are hotspots for this impressive insect, so the more dead wood you can provide in the garden the better. You may also attract newts, toads, slow worms and even hedgehogs if you make a teepee-style pile! Log piles for the win!
7. Dig a pond
If you’ve got the space, I can’t recommend installing a pond highly enough. It’s the single most beneficial feature in any wildlife garden. You’ll have hours of entertainment peering into its depths and marvelling at the number of creatures it draws in to drink, feed or breed over the years. So yes, it’s a bit of hard work to dig and install, but it will repay you ten times over. We’d love to see your efforts if you decide that this is the year you finally put in a pond! Great resources here to help you:
8. Provide a bee hotel
You can buy one online, or make one yourself from scrap wood, boxes or old plastic bottles and stuff them full of hollow bamboo sticks. Place it on a sunny wall and watch as various solitary bees use it to raise their young. You can also help the more familiar bumblebees by sinking an upturned terracotta pot into a sunny bank or border filled with dried grass or straw. More detailed instructions here:
9. Stop using chemicals
Pesticides, herbicides and fungicides line the aisles in garden centres all over the country. These are poisons, killing far more than their target pests and diseases. So please ditch the weedkiller, go chemical-free and stop the slug pellets. Poisoned slugs are no good for amphibians, hedgehogs, or song thrushes that rely on them for dinner. Use biological controls, like nematodes which are just as if not more effective and eco-friendly. You can order biological control for many common garden pests online as well as organic options for many plant diseases.
10. See the small things
We’re challenging you to go out in whatever outdoor space you have access to and spend an hour just looking at the ground, the leaves, and the world around you. Once you stop to watch and really observe what’s happening down at ground level in your lawn, under a stone, or on the edges of a pond if you’re lucky to have access to one, you’ll discover lots of life. Take a snap of what you find, and post it on our social media using the hashtag #seethesmallthings.