By: Lynne Hart
As I write this article, the temperatures outside are dropping. I’m ready to go home and snuggle up under a warm blanket with my dog, Annie, and a cup of hot chocolate. How about you?

Before we get too comfortable in our warm homes, let’s take a few minutes to think about what we can do to make the winter months more comfortable for local wildlife.

Land development is pushing wildlife out of areas they once called home, leaving them to search for food, water, and shelter outside of their normal habitat. I have always felt a strong tie to the natural world, and agree with Peter Coyote’s statement, “Habitat for wildlife is continually shrinking – I can at least provide a way station.”

You will find some ideas below on how to provide a “way station” for local wildlife right in your own back yard.

FOOD
• Fill your feeders with seeds that will provide high energy, such as black oil sunflower seeds. See the recipe included in this article for birdseed ornaments you can hang outdoors. Then enjoy watching the birds dine on your creations!
• Woodpeckers, Blue Jays, and other birds love suet. It provides the fats needed to help keep the birds warm. Be careful not to leave them out too long when the weather is above freezing as they can spoil.
• If you prefer to go natural, consider hanging dried sunflower heads for the birds to pick out the seeds. Hang strings of popcorn and cranberries where the animals and birds can reach them.
• Prepare for next winter by planting shrubs that produce berries, nuts, and seeds. The animals and birds will thank you for the healthy winter meals.

WATER

• Provide a birdbath or two. Place one on the ground for animals that can’t climb.
• Heat your birdbath if you are able. A warm bath is always nice!
• If you have the inclination, build a pond! Even a small one in your flower garden will be a welcomed addition.
• Keep your birdbaths and ponds clean.

SHELTER
Providing shelter doesn’t have to be difficult or expensive!
• Create a brush pile. Find a corner of your yard and pile leaves as the base. Add sticks and twigs and other brush. Small animals will find safety and warmth.
• Covering your flower garden with leaves provides shelter to small animals and insects.
• Add birdhouses, hollow logs, old drain tiles, rock piles and other creative shelters to your yard.
• Create a warm hideaway by cutting a hole in the side of a Styrofoam cooler. Add some straw (not hay or blankets) to add some warmth and tape the lid closed to prevent air leaks. Tuck the cooler in a protected area.
• Consider waiting until spring to trim your flowers and prune your hedges. The extra coverage will offer protection to small animals.

I find my greatest peace when I connect with nature, and I have a huge love for animals. How true are the words of Cecil Frances Alexander: “All things bright and beautiful, all creatures great and small, all things wise and wonderful, the Lord God made them all.”
By: Lynne Hart
Executive Coordinator – Keep Athens-Limestone Beautiful

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