NATURE NOTES: Wildlife needs a helping hand as the weather changes

Caption only pic - by Ingrid Kent. Oystercatchers on rock groynes near Broadway in Morecambe.
Caption only pic - by Ingrid Kent. Oystercatchers on rock groynes near Broadway in Morecambe.

The local countryside scene in September is reviewed by John Almond with the help of the members and friends of Alnwick and District Natural History Society.

Now that the temperature has taken a sudden nose-dive and we are all reaching for the thermostat on the central heating, it’s time to do your bit for wildlife, says Northumberland Wildlife Trust.

Think of the autumn and images of golden leaves and hedgehogs getting ready to hibernate spring to mind, but in fact, all animals need a helping hand at this time of year and the wildlife charity is offering its top five autumn gardening tips to help them:

• Let it grow, let it grow, let it grow.

Over the past couple of years, we have experienced wetter summers and warmer autumns which means grass keeps on growing – let it! Leave it to provide shelter for insects through the colder months which, in turn, will feed the birds.

If you don’t want to leave the entire lawn, adjust your mower to cut the grass to at least 3.5 to 5cm and consider leaving a patch to grow, which can provide a haven for creatures such as frogs and mice.

• Don’t clear away rotting wood.

Rotting wood is a valuable part of the ecosystem. If you leave it, it could become home to beetles, fungi, centipedes and more.

• Don’t burn or discard all the dead leaves in your garden.

Some creatures use dry leaves to line their nests or burrows. If you make a pile in the corner of your garden, something is bound to move in.

The mulch left over from dead leaves is full of nutrients which is good for worms and other mini-beasts.

• Don’t cut back your ivy.

The flowers can provide nectar to insects like queen wasps through the autumn months and it offers a safe, warm hideaway for butterflies and small mammals; berries will continue to ripen and provide food for birds.

• Don’t cut back hedges when they are producing berries. All sorts of berries are a valuable food source for birds and mammals. If hedges are cut back, they leave very little food for wildlife as temperatures drop and damage the habitat in which birds and small mammals live.

Steve Lowe, head of conservation at Northumberland Wildlife Trust, said: “Gardens are a vital source of shelter and food for wildlife, especially during the autumn when many species need warm, dry spaces to bed down in.

“When you are out in your garden this autumn – perhaps tidying it up before it becomes too unpleasant to venture outside, please bear in mind how holding back on some projects can help wildlife, and you will be rewarded with visits from some wonderful species, as well as the knowledge you are making a positive contribution to wildlife and the environment. Even leaving small patches at the bottom of your garden or piling leaves behind the shed, can make a big difference.”