How to Rewild

Attract Winter Wildlife

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Attract Winter Wildlife




What You Can Do

When the ground is still wet, and easy to dig, but the air is mild and it’s pleasant enough to spend time working outside – it’s the perfect time for making a pond! This will attract a huge range of wildlife to your project – both in and out of the water, from birds to butterflies to dragonflies and frogs.

Winter Bloomers

Whether you’re looking for vibrant greens or colourful flowers, there are a number of native plants and trees which start putting on a show in winter. These will provide leafy food and nectar for winter wildlife. You’ll find that sheltered spaces with a south-facing wall or fence will get much earlier blossom. Drystone walls can be good for biodiversity, too.

In a woodland garden, the lesser celandine is a great option, with delicate yellow flowers and shield-shaped leaves, which is in flower by February in southern England.

Scrambling over hedgerows, you’ll see the green of old man’s beard (‘traveller’s joy’) and honeysuckle in late winter. While the fuzzy ‘beard’ of the first plant is retained long into the winter, honeysuckle also hangs onto some small leaves throughout this season.

The hedgerows themselves will begin lighting up from mid February onwards in warmer spots (much later in exposed areas!), as Blackthorn (invasive but native), and Cherry Plum (non-invasive, but non-native) come into blossom. Cherry Plum (Prunus cerasifera) is a useful functional replacement for Blackthorn in places where the wild plant could get out of control.

The ground may look bare, but you’ll start to see cuckoo pint emerging in early January – a strikingly attractive plant, though highly toxic. Ivy produces prolific berries in early winter, which are gobbled up by birds, while bluebells and wild garlic leaf-up from mid February. You can use wild garlic for pesto and in sandwiches or salads – just be sure to get a clear identification.

Of course, if we mention ivy, we can’t forget holly, and yew, too! Both are evergreen shrubs or trees, with interesting foliage, and both produce berries late in the year, though only holly retains them through winter. Hawthorn and our native roses (dog rose, sweet briar) also hold attractive red berries long into winter. For more red options, take a look at dogwood, with its bold red stems.

Old Man's Beard
Old Man's Beard begins leafing up in late winter, but retains its fuzzy, beardlike seeds throughout the season.
Cherry Plum blossom
Cherry Plum (Prunus cerasifera) is a great functional replacement for our native Blackthorn, with less vicious thorns, edible fruit and less invasive tendencies

Feed the Birds

For a little bit more than tuppence a day, you can keep the local birds extremely happy with your fat balls. In winter, birds need to keep up their fat reserves to hold off the cold, so suet cakes and balls are extremely popular with everything from blue tits to blackcaps (and more!). We’ve also found that the RSPB’s ‘Buggy Nibbles’ are a brilliant way of enticing birds at this time of year.

A diversity of food tends to be appreciated, so everything from niger seeds to sunflower hearts, canary mix and breadcrumbs will go a long way towards bringing in your local wildlife. Winter is the best time to set up a new feeder, as birds are more willing to take risks when seeking out food, especially during cold weather. Just be sure to put it somewhere near dense cover, not in the middle of a lawn, if you want a steady supply of birds.

Providing water can be helpful, too, especially when it’s below zero outside. Cracking the pond ice isn’t great for wildlife in the water, but a bird bath can be a useful addition to a garden.

Blue tits near feeder
Adding structural diversity to the garden will encourage birds to approach your feeder - more about this in the Garden Management guide