Feeding the Wildlife

Congratulations to all the award winners at Crickhowell in Bloom Award Ceremony last week and of course to all those who took part. And a special thank you to Phil who shared some excellent hedgehog advice. Phil and his wife are renowned and respected locally for their fabulous work in hedgehog rescue and recuperation and he told us that hedgehogs will appreciate feeding at this time of year as they need to be a certain weight before they can hibernate successfully.

Best food to give is the proprietary hedgehog food, ferret food or dried kitten food. And he also advised putting a little saucer on top of the food to keep it dry and inaccessible to anything else looking for a ‘simple supper’. Hedgehogs are very capable of nudging the saucer off to get to the food as they are used to turning over rocks and stones for slugs. Cats and other ‘diners’ are far less likely to bother.

Apparently despite the abundance of berries, birds are short of wild food this year too, particularly protein. So they will also appreciate a healthy and regular source of food sooner rather than later.

Fat balls and other fat-based food bars are excellent winter food. If they are in nylon mesh bags, always remove the bag before putting the fat ball out – the soft mesh can trap and injure birds. You can make your own bird cake by pouring melted fat (suet or lard) onto a mixture of ingredients such as seeds, nuts, dried fruit, oatmeal, cheese and cake. Use about one-third fat to two-thirds mixture. Stir well in a bowl and allow it to set in a container of your choice. An empty coconut shell, plastic cup or tit bell makes an ideal bird cake ‘feeder’. Alternatively, you can turn it out onto your bird table when solid.

And don’t forget that some birds will enjoy apples and pears halved on the bird table and even damsons and plums.

When buying seed, buy the best you can afford as the better mixtures contain plenty of flaked maize, sunflower seeds, and peanut granules. Wheat and barley grains are often included to bulk out seed mixtures, but they are really only suitable for pigeons, doves and pheasants, which feed on the ground and rapidly increase in numbers, frequently deterring the smaller species. Avoid cheap seed mixtures that have split peas, beans, dried rice or lentils as again only the large species can eat them dry. Any mixture containing green or pink lumps should also be avoided as these are dog biscuits – designed for fur not feathers!

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