When the sun is beating down and the mercury rises it’s simple enough for us to retreat to a shady corner, grab a cooling drink from the fridge or switch on a fan, but for wildlife, it can be more complicated.
Whilst summer is usually a time when creatures such as swallows and swifts can ‘make hay whilst the sun shines’ by feasting on an abundance of insect prey, periods of extended high temperatures accompanied by a lack of rainfall can present real problems for range of species.
Many insects rely on access to puddles, pools, ditches and damp vegetation for key parts of the life cycle and species that rely on digging up earthworms, including blackbirds, can struggle to find food when the soil surface bakes hard. If moisture-laden foods like worms become harder to find, access to drinking water becomes even more vital to survival.
Creatures such as toads lose moisture through their skin and can soon be at risk of dehydration if they are unable to find moist damp spots and blooms of toxic algae, accelerated by the heat and evaporating water supply, can cover the surface of lakes and ponds, creating problems for a wide range of animals.
Despite these challenges, hot weather isn’t all bad news for wildlife. Reptiles such as common lizard and grass snakes, which literally bask in the sunshine to get their metabolism working, find it much easier to move in warm weather and their insect prey tends to be more active during warmer spells.
In general, wildlife is well adapted to coping with hot spells, but there are ways we can help – especially during extreme temperatures such as we have seen recently and seem to be experiencing more frequently.
The single most effective way to help wildlife is to ensure that as many creatures as possible have access to clean drinking water – and the most effective way to provide water for wildlife is to create a garden pond. If you haven’t room for a fully-fledged pond, a water feature such as a pebble pool or even an old washing up bowl sunk into the ground will help. Birdbaths are another option, but don’t forget to put some water out at ground level to help mammals such as hedgehogs. Any container with shallow, sloping sides – even an old dustbin lid – is ideal for birds to bathe in and for mammals to drink from without fear of drowning.
If you do create a pond, it’s worth ensuring you’ve got a couple of water butts connected to your guttering to give a ready supply of water to keep it topped and if you have birdbaths, do keep them brim full.
Tell us what action you’ve taken for nature
Nature is in crisis and needs all the help it can get – but we can all do our bit to help put nature into recovery. To help us build a better picture of how people are helping nature on their patch and to build a sense of momentum to encourage others to do more, we’ve created a new online map where people can plot the actions they’ve taken for nature. So, whether you’ve just dug out a new pond, bought a bird bath or planted a tree to provide food and shelter for wildlife we want to know about it. To plot your action visit www.nottinghamshirewildlife.org/map-your-action.
Main and top to bottom: Margaret Holland; Sean Browne; Mike Vickers