Helping wildlife in hot weather

Posted: Friday 12 July 2013
by Kate Bradbury

This week, I’ve had two feral pigeons wander into my flat. The first one had a look around and wandered straight out again.

Wood pigeon, photo by Ray Kennedy (

This week, I’ve had two feral pigeons wander into my flat. The first one had a look around and wandered straight out again. The second explored a little further, got lost, flew into the window and tried to hide under a curtain. I helped it find the door.

I’m not sure why the pigeons came into the flat – for the past four years, they’ve stayed in the garden. Perhaps it’s because the door is open more often now we’re having a good summer, or maybe the heat has forced them to explore new spaces, out of the heat and glare of the sun. They might have been thirsty.

I checked that there was enough water in the pond and bird bath for them to drink, before fashioning a barrier to stop them walking into my home. The garden is a haven for wildlife, but the flat is my own. Sorry, pigeons.

The recent hot weather has been a mixed blessing for wildlife. On the one hand, I’ve never seen so many bees in my garden – my honeysuckle, catmint and perennial wallflower are permanently buzzing. Butterflies, too, seem to be having a better year, after 2012, officially their worst year on record.

But mammals and birds can suffer in the heat, as the water and food they rely on tends to be in short supply. In dry conditions, worms retreat far down below the soil surface, making them unavailable for predators, such as blackbirds, robins, hedgehogs and frogs. Slugs and snails also withdraw to cool, shady spots.

It’s easy to help them. If you have a bird bath, make sure it doesn’t dry out, and leave a dish of water on the ground for hedgehogs (especially babies, which are starting to emerge now). You could also scatter mealworms, seed and nuts on the ground for birds and mammals, or leave out a dish of cat or dog meat (chicken flavour is best). Avoid leaving bread and milk for hedgehogs as this can dehydrate them even further.

If the hot, dry weather continues for too long, plants in the wild will shrivel and die and bees and butterflies will find it harder to forage for food. Our gardens can therefore provide a lifeline for these insects, with well-watered, thriving plants.

As well as watering my plants for insects, and keeping my pond and bird bath topped up, I’ll leave food out for birds (including my very feral pigeons). Anything to keep them from wandering into my flat.

Thank you to the RSPB for supplying the wood pigeon photo, by Ray Kennedy

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oldchippy 13/07/2013 at 21:36

Just as the flowers were setting on my plum tree the pigeons ate the lot I haven't had any this year and the native cherry has been cleared from above head height.Don't you just love sharing the garden with wild life.We once had a house with a living room that run front to back with big windows on the front and opening doors on to the garden and a bird flue right through and out the front window it was to quick to identify.

waterbutts 13/07/2013 at 22:28

When I was young, the lady next door to us was a spinster about 60 years old and very fond of  wild birds. She lived with her mother who was about 90 and totally deaf. The 60 year old had a "pet" robin that used to come into her house for food. One day it hopped out of her kitchen, into the hall and straight through into the old lady's ground floor bedroom. Then it flew up onto the end of her old fashioned iron framed bed and sang and sang and sang. Job done it hopped out into the hall, through the kitchen and out of the back door. It once did a similar thing in our house only it just hopped from room to room, looking around, hopped up all the stairs, round all the bedrooms, down the stairs and out of the door.

quercus_rubur 14/07/2013 at 08:17

My bird bath has been very heavily used this week. I change the water twice a day so at least it's fresh.

My Damson had fruits for the first time this year. I was very hopeful, but the birds had them all before they started to develop. Ah well, I've got loads of fruit on other bushes and trees. Sharing is good