Eco Comment – Winter Walks, Wildlife and Festive Bird Treats.

14 December 2023

It’s not surprising that as humans we are very much influenced by the weather. When it’s cold, damp and foggy we feel down, but give us a ray of sunshine and the whole world brightens up. We look outside and we immediately cheer up. We might even consider wrapping up warm and going out for a walk.

In Wakefield we are blessed with many different places to get out and about in, either on our doorstep or a short journey away. During the various lockdowns, many of us discovered walks that offered woodland and water, be it river, lake/pond or canal. When we walk, we start to look at our surroundings and notice the small changes that are brought about by both the seasons and by humans. If it’s a walk we do regularly, we notice that a particular tree has blown down, or that the berries are plentiful and make associations with folklore, again learnt from older generations. Is it really true that it’s going to be a hard winter if the berries are plentiful? This is also the season for seeing spectacular spider webs and frosty patterns. The gardens at the Hepworth are planted so that we see the different effects and colours of winter. Places like Pugneys, Newmillardam, Walton and river/canal walks are havens for wildlife and birds in particular.

The variety and sheer numbers of birds found in these places always surprises me. It’s possibly an age thing, but like with plants and flowers, I find that I’m remembering the names of the different species. These were possibly learnt as a child; remember the ‘I Spy’ books? Swans, geese, ducks, not to mention the gulls, gather at different times of day. I’m never quite sure if they’re the same birds that move from one feeding station to another or whether they’re all different. I know that people still feed them bread even though there are notices suggesting alternatives, but there are also those who regularly come with seed for these wild birds.

For those who can’t get out and walk, garden birds provide a focus for a winter’s day. If you have the time and inclination, there are lots of ideas to make your own bird feeders and food. There are also many in the shops, along with wonderfully designed feeders, some of which claim to be squirrel proof!


Home made bird treats consist of some sort of hard fat plus a mixture of seeds, berries and fruit. This provides high energy food for your garden birds when the ground is too hard for them to forage for themselves. The most elaborate festive treat that I’ve seen is in the RHS December magazine and is shaped into a bundt tin and decorated with rose hips, berries, leaves and ribbon. The only note of caution is that food for birds is equally food for rats if it falls to the ground, so it’s best placed on or over a bird table 1-2 metres above the ground, but near bushes to provide cover from predators.

Happy bird watching.

Susan Morgan
Eco Group

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