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No. 43 Help a wild animal

Blue tit on bird feeder, viewed from the bird hide at Acorn Bank, Cumbria
Blue tit on bird feeder | © National Trust Images/Melvin Jefferson

Could you be a nature hero this year? Lend a helping hand to the animals and birds that live near you by making sure they have food to eat and a place to sleep. It’s no. 43 of our ‘50 things to do before you’re 11¾’.

A helping hand

Isn’t wildlife amazing? Chirpy sparrows, spiky hedgehogs, tiny scurrying insects – they’re all different but they all play important roles in keeping our planet happy and healthy.

Like all of us, sometimes wildlife needs a helping hand. And that’s where you come in. You can care for nature by doing just a few simple things – here are a few ideas for you to try.

A home for hedgehogs

Look after your local hedgehogs by making them a home from leaves and twigs. Hedgehogs are shy creatures, but you can encourage them into your garden by leaving a scruffy patch of long grass, fallen leaves and bits of bramble.

In fact, an untidy garden is good for lots of types of wildlife. Why not talk to a grown-up about leaving a patch of lawn to grow naturally?

In spring, collect things that birds can use to make a nest. Natural wool, twine and twigs all make excellent building materials. Leave your collection in the garden and check back on it a week later – have any of the materials gone?

Making a pinecone bird feeder
Making a pinecone bird feeder | © National Trust Images/Rob Coleman

Food and water for birds

In winter, food is harder to find. You can make a real difference by putting out high-energy food for birds and other wildlife. If you have a bird feeder, make sure it’s topped up with seeds. Fatty foods like homemade bird cakes will be especially helpful – and they’re fun to make.

Birds also need unfrozen water for drinking and bathing. In frosty weather, this can be hard to find. Help out by filling a bird bath or dish with water, or creating a small pond. The RSPB has a simple trick for keeping your water ice-free: float a small ball, such as a ping-pong ball, on the surface of the water. Even the lightest breeze will keep it moving and stop an area of the water freezing.

Bird box and bee hotel in the Walled Garden at Wimpole Estate, Cambridgeshire
Bird box and bee hotel in the Walled Garden at Wimpole | © National Trust Images/Mike Hodgson

Be a buddy for bees

Bees do so much for the planet. They pollinate plants and flowers and are vital for producing many of our favourite foods, like apples, strawberries and cucumbers. Now they need your help.

You can give bees a hand by building a ‘bee hotel’ with empty plant pots and bamboo canes, and putting a bowl of water outside. Don’t be tempted to put sugar in the water, bees prefer it fresh. Float a few corks in the water to give the bees something to balance on.

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