Best Garden Wildlife Activities for Kids
As we have just launched our Children's Bird Gift Box we thought it would be a good time to put together some tips to help children enjoy the garden!
Introducing children to garden wildlife is a sure fire way to spark their imaginations. Creepy crawlies, frogs, birds, hedgehogs - they can be just as exciting as anything you’d find down at the zoo. Most children love the opportunity to explore and discover the animals and habitats that exist right in their very own garden.
If you’d like to embark on a wildlife adventure with your little ones, take a look at these garden wildlife activities for kids. They’re easy and lots of fun for everyone.
Make a Hide
Create a birdwatching hide out of branches and leaves. Or just pitch up a tent on the lawn. Then sit quietly to get a good look at the birds who pay your garden a visit. A reference book to help children identify the birds they see can also be lots of fun.
Hunt for Mini Beasts
This is a particular favourite with younger children. Tour the garden to discover the various creepy crawlies that live there. In doing so, children will find out about different insects and the habitats they live in. You could download a bug spotter sheet so they can tick off the beasts they find and use a magnifying glass so everyone can get a closer look.
This one’s perfect for longer nights when it’s getting darker earlier. Hang a white sheet from the washing line, turn off the lights and shine a torch onto the sheet. You’ll soon have a collection of moths to examine and identify.
Let your little ones play detective by finding footprints. Put some damp sand in a baking tray and leave it in the garden. For the best results, put out some wildlife friendly food too. Come the following morning, kids will love identifying the footprints any wildlife visitors leave behind.
Create a Wildlife Retreat
From bug hotels to bat boxes to hedgehog hides, children will enjoy creating and decorating their own wildlife habitat to put in the garden. There are plenty of online guides available, giving instructions on materials and method. Most can be made from odds and ends you’re likely to have lying around the house.
Getting to know and appreciate wildlife at a young age can lead to a lifelong love of nature. Make sure your activities are lots of fun and your kids will be learning about different species, habitats and life cycles without even realising it.
- Nikki Boxwild
Endangered Garden Birds and What You Can Do to Help
According to a recent study conducted by the British Trust for Ornithology, more than a quarter of British birds are on a conservation “red list”. Some of these endangered birds used to be regular garden visitors. Take a look at our list to find out which birds are currently threatened and what you can do to help:
One third of young starlings used to survive their first year. Now, it’s just 15%. The reason for this decline is unknown.
Food: Insects – beetles, flying ants, flies and earthworms. Berries, fruit and scraps also go down well.
Habitat: Starlings will set up home in a large nest box with a 45mm diameter hole placed 2.5 metres up from the ground.
A popular garden song bird, the song thrush likes to nest In hedgerows. It’s thought that the loss of hedgerows in rural areas has led to the species’ decline.
Food: Invertebrates including worms and snails (so avoid using slug pellets). During colder months, hawthorn, holly and ivy berries are popular.
Habitat: Try to plant trees, shrubs, dense climbers like ivy or other thick vegetation. Song thrushes like to make their nests low down and under cover of foliage.
The decline in greenfinches has been attributed to a disease that prevents birds from feeding properly. Cleaning and disinfecting feeding sites, bird baths and feeders regularly will help to prevent the spread of this disease.
Food: Seeds, particularly black sunflower seeds. Other favourites include chopped peanuts and sunflower hearts.
Habitat: Greenfinches like to nest in dense shrubbery and are unlikely to take up residence in a nest box.
The sparrow is a hugely adaptable bird and its current decline is, as yet, not fully understood.
Food: Primarily seeds and kitchen scraps. They feed aphids to their young so don’t be too trigger happy with the pest spray.
Habitat: Sparrows nest in colonies so place several nest boxes close together. Planting a few large shrubs or hedges nearby too will give sparrows a space to gather and socialise.
Whatever endangered bird species you’re planning on lending a hand to, you’ll need a source of water and a supply of food all year round. Brush up on the foods you shouldn’t feed to garden birds and supplement food provisions with fattier options come winter. The hope is that, with a little care and support, these birds will once again become a common sight in our gardens.
- Nikki Boxwild
Common Garden Birds and What They Like to Eat
A wide variety of birds visit gardens up and down the country. They’re most likely to visit places that provide shelter, water and food. Their primary diet is made up of the seeds, berries, insects and invertebrates that can be found in most well-tended gardens.
But birds, just like humans, like a little variety. When it comes to treats, not all birds like to eat the same things. Each bird species comes with its own dietary requirements and preferences.
If you’re looking to attract birds to your garden, take a look at our list of common garden birds and the foods they like to eat:
The red breasted robin appears in gardens all year round, not just in winter at the legend would have us believe. Robins love to eat mealworms. You can grow your own but this is quite an involved process so buying them is an easier, if more expensive, option. Mild grated cheese also proves popular.
The goldfinch’s red and black markings make it an impressive garden visitor. These birds have a particular soft spot for nyger seeds. In fact, it’s the addition of nyger seeds to feed mixes that have made goldfinches a more common sight in our gardens.
Dunnocks are small, brown birds that tend to hop around on the ground. They like to stay close to cover and can usually be found under hedges. Dunnocks are most likely to peck at millet seeds left on the ground, under the bird feeder.
Collared doves are soft grey in colour with the black and white collar that gives them their name. Particular favourites for the collared dove include uncooked rice, wheat and barley grains.
Blackbirds are seen all year round. The like to eat insects, worms and berries. Flaked maize seems to be a blackbird’s favourite part of a seed mix whilst dog food can act as a tasty substitute for worms when the ground is dry during summer months.
The blue tit’s blue and yellow markings make it instantly recognisable. This tiny bird weighs just 11g. It likes to eat sunflower seeds and chopped, unsalted peanuts as well as juicy mealworms.
Learning what wild birds like to eat will help you to create a veritable banquet for your feathered garden guests. Provide a variety of food all year round and your feeders will be a popular gathering spot for a host of garden bird species.
5 Tips to Attract Wildlife to Your Garden
Enjoying wildlife from the comfort of your own garden – what could be better? If your outside space isn’t proving popular with the local animal population, take a look at our top five tips for attracting wildlife to your garden:
Create a Water Source
Birds and small mammals need water to drink. Frogs and newts can use it as a breeding ground. A pond with sloping sides and plants to provide cover from predators is ideal. But if you don’t have the space for something so big, any container, even an upturned dustbin lid, will do the trick.
Put out Food
Most creatures get the nourishment they need from their natural environment. But sometimes adverse weather conditions or habitat changes can hamper their ability to find adequate food. Research the best foods to provide for garden animals and leave it for your visitors on a regular basis. Your garden will be instantly more attractive to wildlife.
Let Sections of the Garden Go Wild
A carefully manicured lawn won’t attract wildlife to your garden. In contrast, a wildflower meadow acts as a wildlife haven. It will attract small mammals, butterflies and bees. If you don’t want to let your garden go completely wild, try to leave longer grass or wildflowers in designated sections. A small pile of decaying wood will also create a welcoming habitat for various species of beetle.
A bird box, a bat box, a hedgehog house, a bumble bee nester or a bug hotel – installing a wildlife friendly habitat is a great way to bring animals to your garden time and again. Do your research to maximise your chances of attracting wildlife to your habitat. Every bird and mammal species has their own set of preferences when it comes to house hunting.
Choosing flowers that provide high levels of pollen and nectar will attract bees, butterflies and other insects to your garden. Highly bred flower species contain little pollen or nectar so, if you do have some of these in your garden, counteract with plants like crocus, lavender, iris or alliums. You could go even further by carefully selecting plants to ensure constant flowering throughout the year, thus ensuring a year round food source for pollinators.
A garden full of wildlife is interesting for you and good for the environment. Introduce some wildlife-friendly changes and your garden could soon be a hive of mammal, bird, insect and amphibian activity.
Top tips for photographing birds and wildlife in your garden
Wildlife photography is one of the most exciting things you can do in your garden. If you have the right setup, it can be as easy as sitting in a deck chair with a glass of wine and your camera, shooting whilst you sip. But what is the right set up? Well, let’s find out, shall we?
The camera gear for wildlife photography in your garden
If you want to take your photos to the next level, a DSLR is the only way to go for wildlife photography. Now, you may think that a DSLR comes with a hefty price tag, but it doesn’t have to. You can purchase second-hand equipment and entry-level gear for only a few hundred pounds, and if you are new to wildlife photography, these cameras will grow with you for years. They also provide all of the control you need to get the shots you want.
While having the zoom to get to the birds and wildlife is important, you can achieve this without having to pay a crazy price. A cheap or second-hand 70-300 lens, or macro lens if you want to get down and dirty with the bugs, may be all you need to get great photos in your garden of all the wildlife. There are compromises to be made with cheaper lenses though, you’ll likely not have the best low-light shooting capabilities, and it will be non-stabilised, which brings me onto the next point.
Tripods and Monopods
Stabilisation is vital for wildlife photography. A great tripod or monopod should be used whenever possible. The extra stability allows you to keep the camera steady even if you are excited at seeing your first red squirrel. Plus, in low-light situations, it might just give you a chance of walking away with the photo you have spent all day trying to get.
Tips for taking photos of wildlife in your garden
I’m sure you guessed this tip would be on the list. Patience is vital when it comes to wildlife photography. You may be sat in the same spot for hours and then get seconds to shoot the photo. In these few seconds don’t move around and get excited as you’ll scare off the wildlife and have to start all over again. Just take a few deep breaths and get ready to fire off a lot of shots. This will take practice because it is very exciting to take your first few wildlife photos.
Shoot a lot of photos
All DSLR's have a burst mode, and this is the perfect situation to use it in. Burst mode allows you to hold the shutter button down and take multiple photos at once. Using this mode means you’ll have the best chance of capturing the creature in the few seconds that you have.
Find the right spot
If you can, create a hide in your garden. This could be a tent, a few palettes by a fence, anything that doesn’t alert the birds to your presence. Keeping out of sight and keeping quiet will make a huge difference. Remember, you are trying to observe the wildlife and their natural behaviour, so, even though it’s your garden, it has to feel natural to them. Otherwise, you won’t observe anything.
Remember, the wildlife you want to photograph is typically the most elusive, so, while you wait, practice with the more common species found in your garden so that when you meet the wild barn owl for the first time, you are ready to get the photo.
We hope these wildlife photography tips have been helpful. Why not get out into your garden and give them a try?
Top 5 Things Not to Feed Your Birds
Providing food is a great way to attract birds to your garden. It can also help them through food shortages and the bleaker winter months. But you should always feed your avian visitors responsibly. Here are the top five things not to feed your birds:
Peanuts are a favourite for many birds but salted peanuts are a big no-no. Most birds can’t process salt and may die if they ingest too much of it. Whole nuts in the spring also pose a hazard as parents may feed them to their young, causing a risk of choking.
All bread, but particularly white bread, fills a bird’s stomach but provides little nutrition. There are lots of other healthier alternatives to offer.
Vegetable, chicken or turkey fat
Fat can end up coating a bird’s feathers and making it difficult for them to fly. If you want to make homemade fat balls for your birds, you should avoid using polyunsaturated fat or butter.
Whilst some birds are partial to a little bit of cheese, milk isn’t a good idea. It can cause severe stomach upsets.
Fresh coconut is a tasty treat for the birds in your garden but avoid desiccated coconut at all costs. It can swell in the stomach and be fatal to birds unless properly soaked beforehand.