October, 2011

Wildlife

Wildlife
We're about more than just birds (though obviously we like them a lot).

Wildlife Enquiries

'Good morning, Wildlife Enquiries...' We take hundreds of calls and e-mails every day. Find out what everyone's asking this week
  • Halloween and the phonelines have gone batty!

    Some spooky goings on in the wildlife enquiries team today with a series of calls about bats. Some turning up in peoples houses and others wanting to know more about them and how to encourage them. Most bats are going to be looking for safe places to hibernate over the cold winter months over the next few weeks, mild autumn weather enables them to stay active through October and into November. I was watching two bats hunting over coastal scrub in north Devon just a few days ago! Everyone can help bats by putting nesting boxes up, two or three are better than one and try to position them facing different aspects to give the bats a choice of home throughout the year. It also helps to manage your your garden for insects, lots of nectar rich flowers plus foodplants for moths will enable local bats to find food at night. Check out our Homes for Wildlife project for more details on how you can help.

    To find out more about bats please have a look at the Bat Conservation Trust's website here.

    It's not just bats that might send a tingle down your spine this halloween, lots of our other wildlife can add to the spooky atmosphere. Listen out for the eerie howls and whines of foxes, the autumn is dispersal time and many young foxes end up in fights as they seek new territories. The adults will be mating over winter so defending a territory is all important, definitely something to shout about. Other wildlife making plenty of noise at this time of year are deer, the barks of muntjacs especially, and tawny owls. The tawny owl has also been making a different kind of impression, have a look at the article here. Hopefully the owl was able to make a recovery after it's close encounter with the glass, window transfers on the outside of the glass can minimise the risks of these collisions. If you are stuck for a kids activity this halloween, get some sticky backed plastic and get them to create some spooky shapes to go on the windows!

  • Batten down the hatches here comes winter! Plus a reminder of summer.

    With dropping temperatures, high winds, showers and the threat of snow over high ground, winter is definitely on its way! With our winter migrants making landfall and spreading out across the UK, and with Feed The Birds Day on October 29, now is the perfect opportunity for a quick checklist on the essentials to keep wintering birds happy!

    • Water - birds need to drink on a daily basis and keeping their feathers clean is important to make them effective at keeping out the cold and wet weather. If you provide a bird bath make sure the water is changed regularly and when the frosts come, empty the bath over night and refill in the morining with the addition of a ping-pong ball which should prevent the water from freezing.
    • Supplementary food - Everyone loves to feed birds and over the winter months it can be the difference between life and death for our feathered friends. A variety of seeds, peanuts, fatcakes and suet sprinkles all provide the nutrition birds need. You can also feed porridge oats, raisins, pastry and cooked rice.
    • Natural food - Birds instinctively know what to eat in the natural environment so you can help feed them simply by planting the right trees, shrubs and flowers and managing them in a way that gives birds the chance to eat the fruits, berries and seeds. Leave swathes of grass long over winter, don't cut berry bearing hedges until late winter and if you have any windfall fruit, save it up for hard times later in the year.
    • Hygiene - When birds are feeding close together in gardens they can be vulnerable to spreading disease. We recommend regular cleaning of the bird feeders and bird baths as well as moving the feeding stations around on a regular basis to prevent birds feeding amongst a build up of mess underneath.
    • Shelter - Many birds will gather together in trees to roost but some may venture into nesting boxes including tits and wrens (I think the record is over 60 wrens huddled in the same roost!). If you can put up a few boxes on the house and around the garden, you could be helping the local birds make it through the long cold nights.

    With the colder weather arriving, those of you who have been noticing reduced garden bird activity, be prepared for an influx of hungry visitors over the next few weeks!

    All this talk of cold and wintry weather is a bit depressing so I thought I would share with you a picture taken from earlier this year when summer was in its prime, got to love a summer swallow!

     

  • Octobers here, time for an update!

    Lots going on so far this month, continuing on from a very busy end to September. We have had a recent spell of people reporting escapee cage birds from the commonly kept such as zebra finches and cockatiels to the unusual in the form of lilac-breasted roller, as you can see from the link,  a very exotic bird to find in the UK and a first for us here in wildlife enquiries! In situations where likely zoo or aviary escapees are found our advice is usually to make local enquiries (zoos, pet shops, local papers and radio) and to notify the RSPCA.

    We have also been speaking to many people recently about concerns over local developments. We provide guidance on how to protect local wildlife sites from threatening developments, you can find out more on our website here. You may also wish to check out the casework pages to see the current priority cases the RSPB are involved with throughout the UK.

    October is a great time to give your nesting boxes a clean out. The best way to go about this is to first check to make sure they are not still in use by garden birds. If nobody is home then open the box carefully, sometimes boxes can be home to insects and spiders which might make a sharp exit if disturbed! Firstly, remove the old nesting material, you can leave it under a nearby shrub to decompose naturally, this will remove the risk of harmful parasites hiding in the box. Give the inside of the box a good rinse and then allow it to air dry. We recommend putting the box back into place so that wintering garden birds can use it to roost in and hopefully stick around to nest in the following spring. Now is also a great time to put up additional boxes, maybe think about atttracting a new species this year such as a house martin, starling or swift, you can get these boxes from our online shop.

    Lots of people are finding frogs and hedgehogs on the move at this time of year, these animals will be looking to find a safe place to hibernate in the next few weeks. Its a great time to create log piles, wildlife stacks and hibernacula as well as making use of the falling leaves to provide extra cover and for these garden favourites. Check out our Homes for Wildlife advice about building homes for mammals and amphibians, if you are tempted then go for it, get your hands dirty whilst the sun is still shining!