Simple Ways You Can Help Wildlife in a Heatwave
With temperatures as hot as it is today in Cornwall, it’s important to keep the wildlife in mind. If you’re wilting in the sun so is everything else! Whilst we cool down by sweating, many animals don’t have any sweat glands and need to find other ways of beating the heat. A lot of us remember to put out food in the winter, but fewer remember a regularly cleaned supply of fresh water in the summer.
Here’s a few ways you can help your garden visitors when the temperature rises…
Put Out Plenty of Water!
Remember to keep the water clean, as the hot weather can accelerate the growth of harmful bacteria, especially when multiple animals are using the same water supply for bathing and drinking.
Provide Shade & Shelter
If your garden isn’t the wildest of places it’s like there aren’t many cool places for wildlife to escape the heat. Simple things like upturned bins and plant pots (leaving a space at the bottom so that wildlife can come and go) can provide necessary shade. Windflow is important to help maximise the benefit of the shelter, so keep that in mind when putting something together. You could even combine the water you leave out with shelter by using stones or bricks to raise it off the ground, providing welcome shade below. Propped up aluminium or galvanised steel is ideal for makings shelters as they reflect the rays of the sun.
Water Your Plants
Your well-watered plants are a lifeline for the things that feed on them as many creatures get their water from their food supply.
We remember to feed the birds during winter, and whilst there is generally more food around in the summer, extended dry spells drive worms further underground making them scarce for anything that feeds on them. Birds, hedgehogs, and frogs all feed on worms and when they’re not around food shortages occur. The RSPB has a great article on what is and isn’t safe to feed your feathered garden visitors and if you’re lucky enough to have hedgehogs visiting your garden make sure to leave food and water out at night for them too.
Create Log & Stone Piles
These should be established before a heatwave and left year round, providing habitat and shelter for all kinds of creatures. In a quiet shady corner of your garden pile up wood and leave it be. Yes, let it rot! This will not only provide shelter from the heat in summer months, it is a great place for things like toads to hibernate over the winter months.
Leave a variety of different types of wood, allowing for a range of beneficial fungi to take hold, attracting more and more wildlife to your garden! If you’re in an area where the stag beetle lives, your dead wood pile could attract the endangered species to your garden. The larvae stay for several years in dead wood before reaching maturity, so leave your pile untouched. Easy to maintain, and so beneficial to wildlife! In our quest for tidy gardens, we forget that many of the things we would normally get rid of are actually just what nature needs.
Ponds are hugely beneficial to wildlife so if you’re somewhere you can build one, even a tiny one, it’s definitely a great idea! I’m hoping to build my own soon so I’ll be writing a whole blog post on that in the future. If you’ve already got a pond, here’s a few ways you can make sure it continues to be as beneficial as possible during a heatwave…
Top Up Water
If you have a pond, make sure to keep it topped up if you can. It’s best to collect rain in water butts rather than topping them up with tap water, which could do more damage than good.
It’s good practice to create little escape roots for anything not used to the pond that comes to take a drink or bathe and then finds itself in trouble. Bricks, logs, and files can all provide a way out for animals.
Oxygenate the Water
In hot weather algae growth can accelerate, starving the water of necessary oxygen and killing pond inhabitants. A fountain, aeration devices, or a waterfall can combat this.
Be Aware of Signs of Heat Stress
During hot weather animals struggle. Being aware of the signs of heat stress and having the numbers of wildlife rescues and local veterinary surgeries on hand can help save lives.
Nocturnal animals such as foxes may appear during the day, confused and dehydrated, whilst animals that would normally be hidden away in trees might be found on the ground appearing lethargic, confused, or unresponsive.
It is important that you don’t touch any animals you find! This is for both your safety and theirs. Please call a professional such as your local vet and seek their advice instead!
I know this sounds pretty obvious, but many of us forget. A range of different water supplies to cater to a variety of wildlife is best. Personally, I put out some larger bowls and trays filled with a few inches for the birds, as well as smaller bowls filled with rocks and water to perch on for insects. You might be thinking “why would I want to help insects?”, but without them, you wouldn’t be here and neither would the animals you admire, so spare a thought for them in the heat too!
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