Help our birds and animals bed down for the winter with Chris Packham’s tips

The hibernation season has arrived, but while the country’s wildlife is ready for winter, nature lovers shouldn’t be resting.

Conservationist Chris Packham says this cold season is a crucial time of year for the UK animals who need our help to make them through.

“There is never a dead time for wild animals because wild animals always have to be on the move,” says the BBC Springwatch presenter. “Everything runs through a cycle and there is an enormous amount of activity in winter.

“Some species breed in winter, such as certain moths and fish. Winter is actually a time of wealth and life. “

Chris, 60, who first appeared on the TV frontline of CBBC’s The Really Wild Show 35 years ago, says it’s a misconception that nature closes its store for the winter – and that comes from the spread of deciduous trees. “When we see that they look bald and bald, we think they are lifeless, but they refill,” he says.








Bats need our help
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“If you look at most trees, when the leaves peel off, they have buds for next spring.”

Here’s Chris shares how you can help some of the most common wintering animals survive and thrive this winter.

Do gardening

Winter is the perfect time of year to take stock of your garden and prepare for the next 12 months.

Chris says, “You can see it more clearly as it’s largely going back. It is a time to make decisions because if you wait until spring it will be too late.








Make a hole in the ice so the birds can drink
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“Look at your garden in winter and think, ‘What can I do for nature?’ It’s a good time to build a pond because if you wait until spring it will be too late for the frogs and newts. “

The key to being a good gardener is to stay active all winter.

“It’s the best time to plant trees and bushes,” says Chris.

“If you plant them, if they have leaves, and if there’s a drought, and you don’t water them, they’ll die.

“So use them when there are no leaves in winter and they will thrive in spring.”

What is hibernation?

Hibernation is a condition in which animals slow their metabolism in order to use as little energy as possible in winter when food is scarce.

Their heart rate drops, as does their breathing, and they survive on the fat reserves built up in summer.








A dormouse in hibernation
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It’s called hibernation rather than sleep because the brain cycles that animals go through are different.

It’s more of an extreme slowdown, but only three British mammals really hibernate – bats, hedgehogs and dormice. Birds have either adapted to the season or migrated, while reptiles transition into a state called brumation.

Box clever for bats

Bats are wrongly considered scary, but the only flying mammals in the world make an important contribution to our environment. Chris recommends putting bat boxes up for protection during the winter months – although they won’t attract residents until next year.








Bat boxes for the misunderstood creatures
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“Most bat boxes are occupied in summer when either the males are sleeping or the females are in maternity quarters,” he says.

“In winter, bats want stable temperature, humidity, and air circulation, and they can’t get that in a bat box, so they go to hollow trees, caves, and concrete buildings.

“But if you set up boxes in the spring, it’s too late, because after waking up, bats go on small flights of food in search of places.

“The more you bring up, the greater the likelihood that one of them will be used. You like to have a network of different boxes in the same place. “

Feed the birds

All garden birds need our help in winter and if you take good care of them you can count on many visitors in spring.

Chris says, “Put up nest boxes. In February things like blue tits look around and think, “Are there any holes I can nest in?”








Birds feed in winter
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Birds rush for their snack
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“They don’t lay their eggs until April, but by then they’ll find out. If you haven’t found a nest box in your garden, go next door. “

Automatic feeders also help ensure your resident birds get the nutrients they need – but you need to give them some attention.

“The most important thing is to keep it clean,” says Chris. “A number of diseases are sweeping our finch population. They are generally transmitted through saliva, so you will need to keep the area under the feeder and the feeder itself clean.

“Draining water is just as important because birds need to bathe and drink.”

Building boundaries

Wooden fences may be easier to build than hedges, but investing in a natural border for your yard will pay off for local wildlife.

“Hedges are better than wood – they will make more life possible,” says Chris.








Secure your bets
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“They take a while to grow and need a lot more maintenance than a fence. So you need to think about whether you can make, cultivate, prune, and shape this investment.

“But if you put up a fence instead, it’s a good place to hang bird feeders and bird boxes when cats can’t get to them.

“You should also cut a hole in the bottom of the fence for hedgehogs to get through – or a larger hole to help out the local foxes and badgers.”

Give a pig a home

Hedgehogs are one of our favorite native mammals, but tragically, their numbers have halved since 2000.

Your hibernation is currently underway, but Chris says you shouldn’t be alarmed if you see one of these spiky little creatures awake.








Hedgehogs are endangered
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“It’s not a disaster if you see a hedgehog in winter,” he says. “They don’t go to sleep in October and wake up in March – they wake up in milder conditions, go out and look for food.

“If they are tiny, the chances are they will be in trouble and you should consider taking them to a wildlife hospital for safety.

“But if you find a larger animal, the chances are it’ll move away from a hibernation place, come out and have some food, then they may go back there or move on to another.”

Hedgehogs also need ambulances

Hedgehog rescuer Ellen Cole has nursed 800 of the animals to health since she found one on her street five years ago. The animal lover had never seen a real hedgehog until she was covered with burns in 2016 and couldn’t see one.








Ellen Cole, who leads the Little Seed Group with Shauna the Hedgehog
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“I wrapped it in a blanket and took it to the vet, who suspected it was accidentally poisoned by de-icer dropped into a puddle,” said Ellen, 34.

“Unfortunately it had to be put down. But it sparked my interest in how I can help, especially when I found out that the number was going down. “

Ellen from York now juggles the care of needy hedgehogs from veterinarians, the RSPCA, the Hedgehog Emergency Rescue in Bingley and the Hedgehogery in Shipley at her own marketing agency. She also has a network of 600 volunteers across Yorkshire acting as ambulance drivers for hedgehogs.

“People who find one often don’t have the option of taking them to an expert so that they can be looked after,” she says. “We have transported around 1,000 hedgehogs so far.”

In the next year, Ellen hopes to start a nonprofit to provide hedgehog education to the public.

She also recommends creating a “hedgehog highway” in your garden and cleaning birdhouses once a week. “There are so many dangers to hedgehogs that people are unaware of that would make a huge difference if they made a few changes,” she says.

Help Ellen by joining the Yorkshire Hedgehog Volunteers on page. like
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