Temperatures have fluctuated up and down in the past few weeks, we have enjoyed basking in the record-breaking February sun and today I am hearing stories of snow around the country.
The weather has raised new concerns for the wildlife and flowers that have been tricked into thinking that winter is completely over and already started preparing for spring.
What does the warm weather mean for wildlife?
The temperature could result in hedgehogs that have come out of hibernation early struggling to find food; birds suffering if they migrate early; and frog spawn could be lost to frost if the weather dramatically drops again.
Swallows are also at risk. After spending their winter in hotter climes abroad, some have been tricked into migrating back to the UK early. Once here, they are completely reliant on aerial insects as their food source. These insects are not out yet because, after all, it’s still February. Should the temperature fall, they might not be able to find any food at all.
Elsewhere, the weather also means that, as blue tits, great tits, robins and blackbirds begin to collect nesting material ready to reproduce, they are also vulnerable to the cold and low food sources. Some birds are already prospecting for nests and it’s possible they may be able to fledge an additional brood, but this all depends on it staying warm and the adults being able to find suitable food for their chicks. Should the weather turn cold again, it’s unlikely that most of the young would survive.
It does bring good news for owls and larger birds of prey, though, as the harvest mice that have come out to enjoy the sun will be much more visible to them. The mice will also be weaker because there is less food for them to eat.
What can we do to help?
The good news is that there are plenty of practical ways we can help the animals in our gardens by providing the food, drink and shelter that nature is not yet ready to give…
- Ensure there is plenty of energy-rich bird food in bird feeders.
- Keep water bowls topped up.
- Avoid cutting back any hedges, ivy growth or other vegetation where birds may be starting to build nests.
- Be careful when you cut the grass for the first time as hedgehogs may be hiding in the longer sections of grass.
- Put small amounts of fish-free dog food down for hedgehogs and retain a wild corner in your garden where they can nest.
- Hedgehogs can only enter gardens where there are small entry points under gates or fences, so make sure there is plenty of room for them to enter.