Lynne’s Naturewatch

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WHILE Mother Nature continues to show what she is capable of throwing at us there’s very little we can do in the garden apart from shaking off the snow that’s weighing down the top of your fruit cage or branches of shrubs.

On the rest of the garden the snow acts like a blanket and most plants will be back next year none the worse for wear.

At this time of year fish keepers often use a measured dose of salt as part of their healthy management of fish ponds but remember not to use too much salt on any icy paths that are likely to run off into the pond. When the ice melts too much salt could upset the balance of the pond for all the inhabitants possibly even killing them.

I’ve found it fascinating to see how many different animal and birds have left their foot prints in the snow, including at least one rabbit and a heron that landed at the far end of the garden, the prints came straight up to the pond. He or she must have been very disappointed to find the pond not only netted but frozen as well, last year I was very late netting the pond and the mate of ‘the Grantham Gobbler’ dined out at my expense.

It has been an exceptionally cold start to the winter and accompanied by the snow it’s making things very tough very quickly for our wild birds, so any help you can give them will be appreciated.

Over one weekend last year I counted over 25 different species in my garden including some more unusual ones and this year I’ve already see field fares so we could again see more unusual visitors appearing in our gardens and parks.

Even in cold weather birds like to bathe so if possible supply fresh water daily in a wide shallow container that’s large enough to allow the birds to wash or drink.

You could think about planting plants like cotoneaster, hawthorn, holly, viburnum and berberis as food sources as these shrubs all have juicy berries which are loved by most birds and other garden wildlife. These types of plants can also make great hedges perfect for windbreaks and nesting birds.

Feed the birds regularly as once they find you they will rely on your generosity, kitchen scraps such as cooked rice, grated cheese, dried fruit or chopped apple are a favorite of many birds. But be careful where you leave the food and in the unlikely event there’s any left at dusk remove it or you may start to encourage unwanted vermin. Why not treat the birds to a fresh coconut split in two; just drill a hole in one end of the coconut shell, thread through string and hang it on a branch before too long you will be able to watch the blue tits aerobatics whilst you enjoy the eating the other half.

Even the smallest garden can be a haven for birds so why not get children involved by making a bird cake. All you need to do is add a few mixed seeds, sultanas, grated cheese and chopped peanuts, into some softened lard or suet. You don’t need exact quantities, just enough so the fat holds it all together. Make a small hole in the bottom of a plastic cup or yoghurt pot. Thread a piece of string through the bottom and tie a knot on the inside so the string is secure. Fill the cup with the mixture and put it in the fridge to set hard again, and then hang it up in the garden.

The Royal Society for Protection of Birds website: www.rspb.org.uk is always a good starting point for information on everything from identifying birds and their foot prints to feeding, housing/bird boxes and planting your garden to provide a welcoming habitat for birds and other wildlife.

By the way if you have a real Christmas tree this year, once the festive season is over either chop it up to make a wildlife stack in a corner of your garden or as last year SKDC will collect it and recycle it for you, put it out on a green bin collection week, whether you have a green bin or not. Check the dates on our website www.southkesteven.gov.uk/recyclinglist