The State of Nature Report, described by David Farnborough as a 'stark warning', highlights the dramatic reduction in British wildlife. 60% of animal and plant species have declined in the past 50 years - and one in 10 could end up disappearing.
One third of hedgehogs have been lost in the last decade, the number small tortoiseshell butterflies is down by 77%, and there are now 93% less turtle doves than in 1970.
Gardens Play An Important Role
Gardens now play an ever important role in conserving endangered species as intensive farming and the destruction of natural habitat takes a huge toll on native wildlife. So what are the best ways to attract these welcome visitors, who are not only interesting to observe but can do a vital job of eradicating pests and pollinating plants?
Feed Your Wildlife
Bird feeders and boxes. There are now 44 million less birds than in the 1960s. Feeders are vital for extra nourishment in the winter, but remember to keep them full and continue during the summer. They search out places to nest fairly early in the year, so put up a range of boxes to suit different species in late winter. We also suggest that you do not feed birds bread.
Create Homes For Your Wildlife
Help a hedgehog. Only about 50% of our spiny friends live to see a second winter, help them out by installing a hedgehog house. When you're out in the garden, don't disturb log piles. Leave out pet food and a bowl of water. Make sure there's a gap in your fence to allow them in and out of your garden.
Don't forget other small mammals and the beneficial but somewhat less attractive creepy crawlies. Nest boxes and artificial habitats can be built or bought for many species including bats, dormice, moths, butterflies, bees and ladybirds.
Grow Wildlife Loving Plants
Grow nectar and pollen rich flowers – old cottage garden varieties that flower throughout the year such as forget-me-nots, bluebells, buddleia, campanula, potentilla and foxgloves, rather than modern varieties that have little to offer insects. Herbs are also useful. Don't be tempted to chop down ivy even though it may have spread a little too far, it's an invaluable winter food resource and small bird habitat.
Build a pond
Probably the best way to increase your garden's bio-diversity. Whether it's large or small, pre-formed or butyl lined, it will provide amphibians with a habitat and attract other species seeking water. You can make it more diverse by including a marshy area, shelving and sloping edges to enable easy access.
Back to Nature
Neglect an area so that it 'goes back to nature'. We all like a well tended lawn and weed free border but designate one patch of your garden as a nature reserve. Let a some brambles and nettles grow there, pile up a few logs and refugees from more manicured gardens will find a home there.
Plant a mixed hedge rather than erecting a fence, preferably using natives species that will provide food and shelter for birds during the winter when there are few alternatives.
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