Your garden will determine what kind of wildlife it can attract. Most wildlife will not be attracted to a garden where insecticides are commonly used and where there’s little grass or plants. Wild animals need trees, hedges and flowering plants for food and shelter. Ponds and compost heaps also provide benefits for wildlife. Ponds attract many kinds of aquatic insects and amphibians and provide water for wildlife. Insects, other invertebrates and hedgehogs will be attracted to compost heaps as they require shelter when they’re inactive. Insects will attract birds and other wildlife to your garden.
Hedgehogs are nocturnal and can be found in gardens countrywide. They like to hunt for food such as slugs, earthworms and beetles. Many people leave a saucer of milk and bread out for hedgehogs in their garden but this can make them ill. A saucer of water is a better option and a plate of hedgehog food or even cat food is more digestible. Try attracting hedgehogs to your garden with Chapelwood Hedgehog Food, a specially formulated, nutritious and tasty treat which is available in Pets at Home stores.
Hedgehogs hibernate between November and March depending on how cold it is. They often take shelter in a pile of leaves or a compost heap so beware when clearing the garden during this period. But don’t be surprised if you spot a hedgehog from time to time during the winter - they do pop out for a snack every now and then!
Hedgehogs are list on the Biodiversity Action Plan, so it’s even more important to make your garden hedgehog friendly.
Badgers are a member of the weasel family and their closest relatives are stoats. Despite this, badgers have no resemblance to their small cousins and are around 90 centimetres long. Although they’re nocturnal, during the summer they often come out in the day so you may be lucky enough to spot one and may even see some cubs too. Whilst badgers do not hibernate, in winter they may spend days on end hiding underground in their homes which are called ‘setts’. A badger sett is a large maze of tunnels and passageways with anything from 1 to 100 entrances but the average sett has around 6 entrances.
Badgers are rarely seen in urban areas but they do wander through gardens and across roads if they’re foraging for food. They like to eat insects, fruits, nuts and bulbs. If there are badgers in your area, encourage them into your garden with an offering of peanuts or raisins. If they do come into your garden be careful not to frighten them – keep your distance, stay quiet and avoid switching lights on and off as this will scare them away and they may not return. Badgers are not an endangered species, they’re just very shy and are not often seen.
The Badger Protection Act prohibits any ill-treatment towards badgers including capture, injury and damage to setts. If you witness such behaviour be sure to report it to the police.
The average lifespan of a badger is 3 years but they can live up to 15 years.
You’ll recognise a fox by its famous bushy tail and red/orange coat. Foxes are almost as common in towns and cities as they are in the countryside as they like to feast on tasty leftovers in our rubbish. Foxes are usually more active at dawn and at dusk and they’ll prey on small animals and birds. They feed their cubs on fruit, berries and worms. In urban areas foxes gain most of their food by raiding dustbins, compost heaps and bird tables.
Look out for foxes at dusk and leave a supply of kitchen scraps and meat out in your garden to attract them - this might also stop them from raiding your dustbin. Foxes can become tame fairly quickly and are fun to watch, especially the cubs as they jump around and play fight.
Foxes are approximately 35cm from ground to shoulder and weigh around 6 kilos – they’re much smaller than most people think!
Insects receive a mixed reception - some people are frightened by their appearance and confused as to their purpose whilst others find them fascinating and recognise their importance.
These beautiful flying insects are always a welcome addition to any garden in the summer as they provide an invaluable service to our flowers. By flying from flower to flower feeding on their sweet nectar, butterflies help to pollinate flowers which is essential for reproduction. Use a butterfly feeder with sugared water to attract them to your garden and observe their beautiful colours while they pollinate your garden.
Bees provide a similar service to butterflies. They feed on the nectar of different flowers and carry sticky pollen on their bodies from flower to flower. Most bees live in large groups in hives rearing their young and making honey. But some bees are solitary creatures such as the mason bee. Mason bees live on their own and make nests in wood, cement and even bricks. A wildlife lodge placed in full sunlight can provide a great nesting spot for these docile, useful creatures.
Lacewings feed on a diet of aphids (greenflies and blackflies). They’re a great help in the garden as green and blackflies are pests to lots of our flowering plants. A wildlife lodge will provide a cosy home for lacewings to rest in the daytime (they fly at night) and a great place to hibernate too. Lacewings are susceptible to cold weather so a lodge will help to keep them alive during autumn and winter.
Ladybirds are attractive and colourful insects. They’re very useful to have in your garden as they eat aphids. Wildlife lodges are great for ladybirds during the night and whilst hibernating too.
Although the red 7-spot ladybird is the most common, there are around 42 different species in Britain. All have different spot arrangements to warn off predators - the yellow ladybird has 22 spots!
You’ll find that by accommodating certain insects you’ll start to enjoy having them around especially when you see the great benefits they bring to your garden. A wildlife lodge is a great addition to any garden and provides lots of fun for adults and kids alike.
You’ll find two types of squirrel, red and grey. The red squirrel is very rare. It’s a solitary animal and eats high up in the trees feeding on seeds, berries and fruit. Any extra food offerings are gladly received by red squirrels as they battle for food with the larger, dominant grey squirrel.
The grey squirrel is bigger than its red cousin and is active in the day, usually for four or five hours after dawn. The grey squirrel also eats high up in the trees but can also be seen on the ground looking for fungi, bulbs, roots and acorns. Squirrels do not hibernate and survive winter by hoarding food earlier in the year. You can help squirrels by placing squirrel feeders by hedges, bushes and trees filled with a variety of nutsand seeds. They like hazelnuts, sunflower seeds and peanuts. Try feeding them a specially formulated squirrel food to distract them from the bird feeders where they can become a nuisance.
Ducks can be found in different sizes of ponds as they’re small and agile. However, swans are much larger and need more space so a small pond is unlikely to be visited by a swan. If you live near to a large pond or lake it can be fun to take some bread with you and feed the ducks and swans at the waterside. Alternatively, try feeding them Pets at Home’s specially formulated floating nuggets - these are tasty and far more nutritious than bread, making them irresistible. If you sprinkle some of our duck and swan food on to the banks or in the shallows for ducks and a little deeper in the water for swans, you can watch them race over to enjoy this tasty treat.
Squirrels bury food underground so they don’t go hungry during winter. They’ll bury lots of food in lots of different places so if one hoard is found, all is not lost.
Watching wildlife is very rewarding. Enjoy helping them in their hunt for food but remember that wild animals are wild and we shouldn’t try to change that. If you do feed them you should only supplement their natural diet - it’s important that they don’t become dependent on you for food.
Swans need a clear runway of at least 20 metres to take off. They look like they’re running along the surface of the water before they lift off into the air.