As the hot weather looks set to continue for at least another few weeks, and with little rain in the forecast, it’s not only our gardens and lawns that are wilting under the effects of the heat.
Whilst many of us have been enjoying this unusually hot summer weather, many of our wild birds and animals are struggling. The adverse weather brought by ‘the beast from the East’ in the spring delayed breeding for some and this, coupled with the summer heat, has hit some wildlife hard.
Many wildlife charities have reported increased admissions over the last months as water levels in our ponds and rivers have receded and the ground has become dry and parched. Secret World Wildlife Rescue, a leading animal rescue charity in the South West, has more than 250 gulls in their care who are struggling with the weather conditions. Herring gulls are suffering from a lack of shade and many have sunburnt feet caused by the extremely high temperatures of roads, pavements, rooves and other surfaces.
With the continued lack of rainfall in many areas, garden birds such as robins, blackbirds and blue tits are struggling to find food. Birds don’t sweat like we do to keep cool, they reduce their temperature by drinking and bathing and so high temperatures and no water can often be a lethal combination.
The current weather conditions are presenting our hedgehogs, already under threat, with yet another hurdle to overcome. Whilst our insects and butterflies are benefitting from the abundance of flowers in our gardens and countryside at the moment, a continued period without rain may mean that many plants will quickly go to seed through a lack of water, having knock on consequences for our invertebrates.
We can all do our bit to help visitors to our gardens by putting out fresh water every day and by providing some shade. Keep your birdbath topped up daily and if you don’t have one, a saucer or a bowl of water on the ground will help. As for providing shade, you can prop up an upturned flowerpot to allow small creatures to creep underneath for some much-needed cool shade. Feeding the birds and putting out cat or dog food for visiting hedgehogs will help until they can forage for themselves.
Make sure that water containers, bird tables and feeders are all kept clean. You can extend the flowering period of your garden plants by removing spent blooms, known as ‘dead heading’, and prolong the food supply for our bees, butterflies and other insects.
So as you enjoy our sunny summer weather, spare a thought for our garden visitors and lend a helping hand.