Wildlife in extremis

Small songbirds like this Blue Tit are most vulnerable in freezing weather. Image © Copyright BridgeNature.org 2018.

This week, in view of freezing temperatures and the covering of snow which the district has experienced over the last few days, BridgeNature.org reiterates our plea for people to think about our wildlife out in the cold. The sad truth is that huge numbers of smaller animals and birds will simply die of starvation and hypothermia over this period. It has been calculated that in the notorious winter of 1963, 50% of all Britain’s birds died, but no one seems to have any idea how many small animals perished.

We can’t all do a great deal to assist animals in the frozen countryside, but we can at least offer food to the birds visiting our garden bird tables and try to provide a regular supply of fresh water, which is vital. Any water in a butt will be frozen solid, and birds do not like our tap water, it has too much of a chemical smell for their tastes, so supplying a drinking station is not easy. If water is left out, after a day or two it will lose its odour, so that is one option, but of course in this weather it is likely to freeze pretty quickly too. So, a better alternative is to try to keep a bucket of melted snow somewhere where it won’t re-freeze, then top up the bird bath, or a flat container, with this every day, or twice a day if possible, so that the birds will at least have some opportunity during the day for a drink. Bird feeders are essential, but it is also helpful to clear a surface high off the ground, perhaps on a garden table, and put extra food out.

It is not a good idea to regularly spread seed or food on the ground near the house, for this can attract rodents to the home, but in these extreme conditions a handful of bird seed scattered on bare ground under a hedge at the end of the garden or at the roadside verge will do little harm and may save a tiny life.

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