Make space for nature text accompanied by illustrations of a blackbird, ladybird and frog

Ten ways to make space for nature in your life this winter

Many of us spent more time outdoors and experienced mental and physical health benefits from spending time in nature during lockdown. Winter can be a great season to enjoy nature at its frosty best and keep our good habits going.

Wrap up warm and try our top tips to help yourself and nature - for now and for the future.

A female blackbird (Turdus merula) eating a windfall apple.

1. Recycle your scraps

Pop any bits suitable to feed birds and other wildlife into a food scraps tub. Bruised or overly-soft fruit can be left out for badgers, foxes and birds. Cut fruit in half and leave on grass or spike on a tree branch. If cats or dogs are nearby, avoid grapes/dried fruit as this can cause them harm.

Dor beetle on a pile of leaves

2. Be a lazy gardener

Leaving some areas overgrown or filled with leaves and twigs gives insects, frogs, toads and small animals a quiet and cosy place to hide during the colder months. Leave your borders/herbaceous plants intact with seed heads - many insects overwinter in their hollow stems.

Whooper swans on a pond. close up of one swan head in foreground with other swans n background

3. Nature on your doorstep

Many of us discovered local walks, paths and parks during lockdown. There's plenty of wildlife to spot, particularly in urban parks and local paths - from ducks to deer. If feeding ducks, avoid bread and instead try sweetcorn, porridge oats, defrosted frozen peas and bird seed. 

4. Water, water everywhere

Garden ponds can be a great water source for passing wildlife but, when temperatures drop, ice can be tricky. A prolonged freeze can mean problems for fish and hibernating frogs and newts. Gently crack the ice with a stick to make a hole, or float a ball in the water to help stop it freezing. A pond needn't be a large outlay, even using an old washing up bowl of water or a deep saucer of water on a windowsill can help.

5. Help your feathered friends

Erect bird houses and feeders, clean out existing ones and keep feeders regularly topped up. Other animals and insects also use the houses for shelter. If possible try to create a regular feeding schedule, and remember to provide water too. To attract a range of garden birds try putting out black sunflower seeds, sunflower hearts, quality peanuts, nyjer seed and/or high-energy seed mixes. 

Red Squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris) feeding from a peanut feeder

6. Keep a lookout

Submit sightings of birds, animals, plants and more, or report any invasive non native species. It's really easy and fun for all - plus many surveys can be done via your smart phone. You really can make a difference.

Close up of mountain bike chain and wheel with person's foot on pedal

7. Let's do even more

Following our tips can really help nature, both now and in the future. However as well as making space for nature in your home and life, you can also help fight climate change, helping to ensure a healthier and greener Scotland.

SBT volunteer and dutch zoology student scanning for beavers on Loch Linne ©Lorne Gill/SNH. For information on reproduction rights contact the Scottish Natural Heritage Image Library on Tel. 01738 444177 or www.nature.scot

8. Volunteer time for nature

Plenty of organisations would love your help but much volunteering is suspended unless it can be done within current Covid restrictions. Search for current opportunities or consider what you could do once restrictions ease.

Female walking in park smiling and wrapped up warm with jacket/scarf, with kids on bike in background

9. It's good for you

In our recent lockdown survey many of us reported health and wellbeing benefits after being outdoors. We de-stress, unwind, feel energised, and our physical health is improved. If working from home, try and take time for a daily walk or mindful minute - you won't regret it. Healthy people need healthy nature. By protecting nature, nature protects us.

Schoolchildren walking on the nature trail at Flanders Moss NNR, Argyll and Stirling Area ©Lorne Gill/SNH. For information on reproduction rights contact the Scottish Natural Heritage Image Library on Tel. 01738 444177 or www.nature.scot

10. Learn outdoors

Most of us want our kids to spend more time outdoors. Try a nature hunt, spot the patterns on leaves and spider webs, spot the first signs of spring - snowdrops or buds appearing, download plant or bird ID apps to help everyone's learning....or simply listen to the bird song, and look out a window and take in the seasonal changes.