Friends of Portbury Wharf Nature Reserve


January 2017 - Issue 5



We would like
to wish everyone a very

Happy New Year


What's Best For
Our Winter Wildlife?

Many species are in decline in their
natural environment due to alterations in agriculture, urban encroachment or climate change, so winter can be especially challenging for them.

Whether you have a large garden or a small balcony your homemade snacks can provide a nutritious winter meal.  Here are a few suggestions for helping our wildlife and avoiding the pitfalls.

Please Do

  • Provide fresh water and clear up uneaten food regularly
  • Keep feeding areas clean to avoid the spread of disease
  • Be patient, it can take a couple of weeks for any wildlife to find a new food source
  • Put out a variety of food to attract different species
  • Leave messy corners in your garden as wildlife refuges
    - long grass, stacks of rotting timber, piles of leaves . . . 

Did You Know?

In winter, tiny birds like wrens sleep together at night for warmth.

An incredible 63 wrens were once found in a single nest box.

Location, Location, Location

Kirsty and Phil tell us about the importance of location when we are looking for a place to live, birds are the same with where they like to feed. At this time of the year many small birds move in loose flocks made up of various species for mutual protection.

A bird table positioned near some bushes or by a fence or a tree is far better than one placed right in the middle of a lawn. The local cat might be able to get closer to the table but all the other birds waiting to feed will usually sound the alarm before it can strike.

Please Don't

  • No chocolate, it’s toxic to most animals
  • No milk or bread for hedgehogs, it gives them diarrhoea
  • No bones, they can get caught in animals' throats
  • No whole peanuts for birds to choke on
  • No cooked porridge oats to get stuck in their beaks
  • No unset fat to get on birds feathers and destroy the natural waterproofing

Should We Feed Mammals?

Mammals such as deer, foxes and badgers don't normally need our help in finding enough food to eat at any time of the year and if tempted by easy food they are likely to cause disruption with dug up lawns overturned bins etc which you or your neighbours might not appreciate.

The big danger with feeding them is that they can become dependent on the food left out for them and this can disrupt their natural territorial distribution pattern. They can also suffer if you go away on holiday and the food supply they’ve come to rely on suddenly stops.
If you do decide to feed them -

Deer - enjoy parsnips, carrots and other root vegetables.

Foxes and badgers - enjoy unsalted peanuts, chopped apple, sultanas (soaked overnight), sunflower seeds, small cubes of mild cheese and tinned cat or dog food.

Hedgehogs - should be in hibernation by late December and so there should be no need to feed them. They’re also nocturnal and seeing a hedgehog during the day at any time of the year suggests that it might be unwell or under-nourished. If you do see one call your local wildlife rescue centre and ask for advice.

Did You Know?

Rats can be discouraged by placing an upturned saucer over food
- it can only be knocked off by hedgehogs and larger mammals

Cooking For Wildlife

Most of us will never have 15 minutes of fame on MasterChef or Bake Off but we can get a Michelin Star within our local wildlife community by cooking tasty meals and snacks for them on a regular basis.

It’s also a great way of getting everyone, from toddlers to grandparents, involved with preparing and then watching the results of their endeavours. They may see something for the first time in their lives or see something they haven’t seen since their childhood.

Did You Know?

Blue tits used to open milk bottle tops to drink the cream.
They stopped when semi-skimmed milk became popular.

Recipes For Success

Natural foods, such as apples, sunflower seeds, unsalted peanuts and mealworms are good for your winter garden visitors but they may also appreciate a few festive season leftovers to help build up and conserve their body fat and energy levels. Any uneaten roast potatoes, stuffing, Christmas pudding or cake crumbs are excellent high value foods for most wildlife.

That Christmas card favourite the Robin loves a breakfast wake-up or pre-roosting meal of cheese but it is best to avoid strong flavoured varieties such as cheddar or stilton.

Did You Know?

Male and female blackbirds tend to separate for the winter,
but in spring they often reunite with their previous year's partner 

Bird feed ideas to hang from a tree or a feeding station

  • Push a stick through the middle of a windfall apple so it acts as a perch. Tie string to either end of the stick where it protrudes from the apple and hang up. 
  • Do the same as above but this time peel the apple and stick sunflower seeds all over it so it looks like a hedgehog.
  • Cover a pine cone with unsalted peanut butter and roll it in bird seed. Then securely tie a length of string around the middle of the pine cone. 
  • Thread unsalted, sugar-free popcorn on a length of wire and bend it into a ring. 
Always use an old saucepan and dedicated utensils for preparing and filling any food you put out for wildlife. 

Did You Know?

Coal tits hide food -
they take sunflower seeds and peanuts for a winter store

Lard Cake

This seems to be a favourite and you can add a variety of ingredients to the lard such as suet, crushed unsalted peanuts, bird seed and oats. As a rule of thumb you should use twice as much dry ingredient as wet.

For this recipe melt lard in a saucepan and mix in bird seed, a few brown breadcrumbs, a little grated cheese, a handful of oats, sunflower hearts and sultanas (soak the sultanas overnight to prevent them swelling in the birds' stomachs).

Once mixed spoon the mixture onto an old baking tin or into an empty yoghurt pot with a stick pushed in so it looks like a lolly or into a coconut shell.

Put into the fridge or a cold place and once set:

- remove the lard cake from the yogurt pots, tie string to the stick and hang up

- or slice into wedges and put on the bird table or in a metal feeder or even wedge it into a branch cleft

This great spotted woodpecker is feeding on a home made feeder.

The feeder has been made from a tree branch with several 25 mm holes bored in it. The holes have then been filled with the lard cake mix.

The feeder does attract squirrels who have gnawed around the holes but it is too heavy for them to lift from the branch it hangs from, much to their annoyance!

Remember it may take a couple of weeks
for the fame of your diner to spread across the wildlife community but once it does you’re almost certain to get many repeat customers

Our Febuary issue features

Portbury Wharf's 
frogs, toads and winter birds

Diary Note

It's the RSPB's
Big Garden Birdwatch between 28-30 January 2017
So another great incentive to get your apron on, get cooking and see what new birds you can attract into your garden this year

Click this link to get involved
The January newsletter text is by various contributors.
Photos courtesy of
 John Rickard.

Garden bird facts from:
20 Amazing Garden Bird Facts 

See more about feeding wild birds on the RSPB website
Copyright © 2016 Friends of Portbury Wharf Nature Reserve, All rights reserved.

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