Who’s picked a blackberry this year? The rest of the time brambles are regarded as weeds and are the source of many a scratched shin, but at this time of year they give something back, a bountiful provision of glossy black fruit. If you just pick the ones at waist height, there should be plenty left for nimble mice and birds to find out of human reach.
Other options for foraging include elderberries (amazing flavour in jams or crumbles), wild strawberries, the blackberry’s more genteel cousin the raspberry, apples, sloes, damsons, beech nuts (get them before the squirrels do) and hazelnuts. You can even try a giant puffball fungus but they have to be new, smooth on the outside and white all the way through.
Things to bear in mind when foraging:
For me there is something really satisfying about walking in the countryside with a handful of fresh berries to browse on. Why not tap into your hunter-gatherer?... well at least the gatherer part.
As I saw a vortex of blue descend over Scotland on the weather forecast yesterday, my mind wandered to the animals that are stuck outside there come rain or shine. The efforts of this red deer to get dry seem futile as the rain keeps streaking down.
The sheer volume of water flying of this youngster’s pelt caught my attention. Here Laurie Campbell demonstrates how a camera can freeze fleeting moments that might just pass us by otherwise.
Our online photo archive, www.rspb-images.com, holds an astonashing array of animals, habitats and situations, so check it out for more gems like this.
Not tidying. Now there's something that comes easily to me! As my long-suffering Mum and girlfriend will no doubt attest to! It’s not that I don’t prefer to be tidy, but there’s always something more interesting to do. However, when it comes to wildlife gardening, being slow to tidy is actually a good thing.
Take the natural approach
Leave your seedheads and vegetation to die back naturally - they provide food and shelter for wildlife. We've got loads of advice to help you make your garden, balcony or windowbox more wildlife-friendly.
How about leaving your berry-laden trees and shrubs unpruned? Migrant birds such as blackcaps and other warblers are munching their way through vast swathes of them as I write. They’re vital to help fuel their long and perilous journeys south.
Blackbirds and thrushes will enjoy the bounty too. If the birds don’t find the seeds and berries now, they well do at some point during the winter, particularly if it’s a cold one.
Don’t forget the little guys
Insects need somewhere to hibernate. So in my tiny garden, I’ve left hollow plant stems up against the fences. These should provide somewhere safe and warm for ladybirds and lacewings to spend the winter. Hedgehogs too need somewhere to hibernate, so why not leave that pile of leaves and logs in the corner you’ve been meaning to tidy up?
What do you leave out for your garden wildlife? Do you have any tips? Is there anything you’ve recycled to use as winter wildlife home? Let us know by leaving a comment below.
Have a good weekend, and don’t forget, no tidying your garden now! Maybe I'll tidy my room instead...
Ps. Check out Homes for wildlife to get tailored wildlife gardening advice. It’s easy to do, and free too!