Brave the cold now and help wildlife prepare for winter

Getting outside and working in the garden can be difficult in the winter; the ground is more solid and harder to work, fingers and feet get icy cold and it seems to get dark before all the jobs are finished.

But, sparing a little time in December to make a few small changes in the garden could really help wildlife survive through the coldest months.

This is a great time to clear out a nest box and prepare it for the next breeding season, or even for some wildlife to use as a warm, dry haven during winter.

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Use boiling water to kill any remaining parasites, and let the box dry out thoroughly before replacing the lid. If you place a small handful of clean hay or wood shavings (not straw) in the box once it is thoroughly dry after cleaning, small mammals may hibernate there, or birds may use it as a roost site.

Don’t forget to put food out throughout the winter for birds. As it gets colder high fat, high energy foods are best.

Fatballs, grated cheese, crumbled pastry or high quality bird food are all good, and putting it out now will ensure you have lots of species visiting in time for Big Garden Birdwatch on 26 and 27 January.

It has been a lean year for fruits in parts of the country, so putting halved apples or pears on the ground will help blackbirds and other thrush species.

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This year seems to be turning into a bumper year for waxwings too, but they could struggle if berry numbers are low.

Try spiking a pear on a stick or threading fruit slices on a string and dangling from tree branches; both could help lure waxwings into your garden.

Of course, you could simply wrap up warm and go out for the pleasure of being outdoors.

When I was a kid I was at my happiest outside, even in the winter.

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Mud, rain, grazed knees, cold weather, none of that put me off. In fact, that was most of the appeal.

My fondest memories are of days spent in the woods near where I lived.

Woods are magical places in winter, perfect for hide and seek, collecting pinecones or, if it’s snowed, looking for animal tracks.

Fast forward thirty years and not much has changed.

My wellies still are my favourite and most worn 
piece of clothing, and I get as much pleasure from crunching through snow 
or peeking under a log 
as ever.

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But I wonder if I would be so wedded to outdoor life now if I hadn’t fallen in love with it as a child.

The RSPB has just launched a new study with the University of Essex to find out more about how connected to nature young people in the UK are.

You can take part at and you’ll also get some creative ideas for how you can be more connected.

It could be the start of changing the next generation’s relationship with nature forever.