A quirky look at wildlife. To be taken with a pinch of
salt, but with more than a grain of truth!
Christmas Cheer for Wildlife
Have a lovely time this Christmas but please don't forget that it can be a tough time for wildlife, especially if the ground is frozen or covered with snow. Here are a few seasonal tips which will help birds and animals and cut down on leftovers from the excesses of Christmas fare.
Hang fat balls out for the birds (and squirrels) but don't put them out in the nets in which they are often sold. Birds' tongues and feet can get trapped, and if you are partying you might not notice.
Ask your greengrocer if he has any fruit left which won't survive the holiday. Bruised fruit is loved by blackbirds, and blue and great tits like it too. Apples are enjoyed by blue tits in particular if hung in a suitable cage where the squirrels cannot steal them. Blue tits will dig deep for the apple seeds which they love. Apple cores can be put out too. Blackbirds will devour an apple cut in half and put on the ground, even if it is way past its best for human consumption.
Peanuts (whole) are quickly eaten by magpies and jays (no salted peanuts please). Badgers and foxes eat them too and you can put them out in their shells for squirrels who will give you hours of amusement as they break them open, or run off and bury them. Peanut granules are welcomed by many smaller birds.
Potatoes cooked in their jackets, and left to cool, will please many species and give them an energy boost.
Yeast and other things contained in bread, like salt, are not good for them. Bread will fill them up but give them no nutrients, and they could actually end up more hungry.
Cheese is a big favourite with robins, and crumbs of leftover biscuits (not salty) and crumbled fruit cake will produce some lively entertainment as they fight over the scraps.
Holes in small logs or the trunks of trees can be filled with fat, attracting blue tits, treecreepers and goldcrests. Raisins or sultanas will have your blackbirds begging on the fence or doorstep, so have a good supply handy, or they will make you feel very guilty!
Ice can be a problem as wildlife needs to drink even in the coldest weather. Either empty birdbaths at night and put fresh water out in the morning, or break the ice and use warm water to melt the ice. Hot water produces steam and will quickly re-freeze.
Seeds of all kinds will feed many birds, and sunflower seeds in particular are favoured by most wildlife.
Tables should be kept clean at all times and a good wildlife friendly disinfectant (available from bird food suppliers) helps prevent disease from damp food or bird droppings.
Make bird puddings from leftover scraps of fat, cheese, seeds, nuts, oats, and coconut (not desiccated). Make a peanut butter sandwich and hang in a basket, as long tailed tits and other birds love them. In this way they only consume tiny quantities of bread so will come to no harm.
All nuts are welcomed and hazelnuts are a particular favourite of squirrels so there is no excuse for nuts to be hanging around in the basket till Easter! You might be lucky and see a pair of nuthatches too.
Suet can be bought quite cheaply, sometimes as a 'buy one get one free', and makes a good base for bird cakes, but can be thrown on the ground as an energy boost in very cold weather.
Ho Ho Ho! and one final note, you may well get a few exotic visitors you were not expecting, though the rattle of harness and clatter of hooves might be a clue in the early hours. So don't forget the apples and carrots on Christmas Eve for your seasonal visitors.
Of course if you want to give them a real treat you can find a more suitable diet for reindeer as they need all the energy they can get at this time of year. You will find it a very enlightening read too.
Happy Christmas Everyone.