Prepare a wildlife friendly yard for the winter

When all things “pumpkin spice” start taking over, you know it’s time to start making winter preparations for backyard wildlife.

Many people feel invigorated to get outside and do yard work in the cool days of October. To help channel this energy, here are some easy tips on how to provide needed habitat for wildlife while still tidying up the yard.

Prune landscape plants to maintain shape, promote and direct spring growth, and remove broken or diseased parts. When possible, leave intact vegetation on lower lying branches to increase cover for ground-dwelling birds and mammals. Avoid deadheading native flowers or grasses; leave seed heads in the landscape to provide natural seed sources for birds and small mammals.

Don’t throw trimmings in the trash; build a wildlife brush pile. Brush piles provide cover from the elements for wildlife, and attract food sources such as worms, insects and other invertebrates. Now is the time to clean out your bird feeders and hang new ones. October is a great time to repair feeders and transition to winter feed blends. Thoroughly clean all feeders with a 10% bleach solution and brush to remove heavy debris. Rinse and let dry fully.

Black oil sunflower seeds, which are widely available, are the preferred seed of most backyard bird species. Providing thistle seeds through a thistle tube or sock diversifies your offering for several finch species, including the American Goldfinch. Suet feeders provide high fat and calorie energy sources for birds during the coldest times of the year.

Add sources of water. Water is essential year-round for wildlife to survive, but it is especially important in the winter. Daily water intake is needed to perform the most basic body functions such as thermoregulation. Finding water can become particularly problematic for small creatures

during freeze periods when water is frozen. Consider adding multiple types of water sources in your landscape, including bird baths and small backyard ponds with circulating pumps to combat freezing temps

With a little thought and care, back yards can be just as inviting, and perhaps more important, to wildlife in the fall and winter months than in the spring and summer.

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