Sales of bird feeders, fat balls and seeds have skyrocketed in the past year, as more and more of us have had more time at home and around the garden, and caught the birdwatching bug.
It’s not hard to see the appeal of attracting birds to our gardens and windowsills – those little feathered visitors help to ground us and connect us with the seasons.
And it seems our fascination with the birds is leading many people to rethink their outdoor spaces and add features that provide shelter and good foraging not just for the birds, but other kinds of wildlife, too.
The Soil Association says it’s clear that wildlife needs our help, with 41% of Britain’s wildlife species having declined since 1970, and around one in 10 now facing extinction.
Intensive farming practices are the main threat – but our own efforts at home can make a big difference, simply by providing a network of connected habitats and food sources. Around 87% of UK households have a garden, which amounts to over 10 million acres – larger than all of Britain’s nature reserves combined!
Each garden is a unique space, so everyone’s approach to encouraging birds and other wild creatures will differ. You might want to reserve a special corner for wildlife, or try to make the whole garden nature-friendly, especially if you’ve just moved into a new place or plan a re-design.
The Soil Association says that either way, a few quick moves can help make most gardens better for wildlife:
Give the lawnmower a rest:
Leaving a section of long grass is one of the most simple and effective changes to help wildlife, as it provides a home for nesting butterflies and allows wildflowers to flourish, providing nectar for bees and other pollinators.
This group of chemicals is designed to kill insects and other pests but their long-term effects can be devastating. Reducing application of these chemicals in your garden is a brilliant quick win for wildlife.
Access to a connected selection of habitats is one of the biggest barriers for our wildlife, particularly roaming mammals like hedgehogs. If your garden is bordered with fences, liaise with neighbours to negotiate some hedgehog holes – small gaps cut into fences to allow wildlife to pass from garden to garden.
Boxes, baths and feeders:
A classic quick fix for attracting wildlife to your garden, this combination can provide an important habitat and food source for nesting birds. Make sure to keep them clean and steer clear of decorative bird boxes made of ceramic or metal. For bird safety, it’s best to stick to wooden ones.
Another great option that’s suitable for gardens of all shapes and sizes, insect hotels provide a refuge for everything from bees and beetles, to spiders. Either buy one, or easily make your own, using a frame filled with bundles of rolled up paper, straw, hay, old bark, and leaves.
Just add water:
Adding a water source to your garden can make a huge difference for wildlife – it’s one of the most common changes agro-ecological farmers make when looking to boost biodiversity. Even a small body of water makes a difference, so even if you don’t have a pond, consider a simple ‘container pond’ made with a sunken bucket, pot or trough.