Think Global - Act Local
Tips for protecting and encouraging wildlife at home and in the community
Here are some simple steps you can take at home, at work, in school and in the local community that can help biodiversity in your local area and around the world. As the saying goes ‘Think Global – Act Local’
Be accommodating to nature
Consider what biodiversity might be in your own home and garden and how you can improve the environment in your immediate area. For example:
- Dim the lights – Cut down on unnecessary outdoor lighting which disturbs nocturnal animals such as bats, owls and other mammals.
- Keep the noise down – Machinery, household appliances, vehicles and domestic animals can make quite a bit of noise which can potentially disturb wild animals especially at night and in rural areas.
- Get rid of the bug spray and the weed killer – avoid using herbicides, pesticides and fertilisers. If unavoidable, use biodegradable systemic herbicides and apply by spot treatment
- Cats kill a large number of garden birds every year. To prevent this, you can keep the cat indoors especially during the bird breeding season or put a bell on it to warn garden birds of approaching danger.
- Leave some areas undisturbed if possible, leave the wilderness take over and see what happens!
- Wildlife hazards – Identify areas in your home or garden that might pose a threat to wildlife and see if you can remedy it. For example
- Put a plank of wood to make a ramp out of the garden pond or cattle grid to prevent animals like hedgehogs and frogs from falling in or drowning
- Put stickers on the windows if birds crash in to them
- Put covers on the chimney pots to prevent birds nesting in there.
- Now – spread the word and get the whole family and community involved!
When sourcing products and raw materials, be conscious of their wider ecological impacts and opt for:
- sustainable natural materials e.g. FSC standard for wood, peat-free compost, Green cement/concrete
- Irish made products
- Local produce especially food
- Recycled materials and products
- Eco-friendly products
- Products with less packaging
- Products and packaging that can be recycled locally
- Durable products that will last longer and need to be replaced less often.
Enhancing nature at home or in your local area
Nature areas can be enhanced by a number of means such as by planting trees, shrubs or flowers or by creating new habitats for wildlife.
Trees and Planting schemes
- Ensure that the landscaping fits in with the local ecology. Aim to keep it as natural as possible in keeping with the habitats of the surrounding area.
- Where possible, retain existing habitats especially trees, hedges, ponds, wetlands
- Use native trees and shrubs suitable to the local conditions see table pg xx (in rural areas use only native species)
- Urban planting schemes can use some more ornamental or exotic varieties of flowers and plants but try to use species that encourage wildlife by providing shelter, berries, seeds or nectar see galway.ie/biodiversityguidelines for more information
- Plant trees, shrubs and flowers of different sizes and density to create some structural diversity to encourage a range birds, insects and other animals.
- Plant varieties of shrubs and flowers in clumps ( e.g. a few heathers together or a couple of hawthorns together) rather than spacing out or mixing up individual plants of different varieties
- Ensure that large trees are allowed ample clearance from buildings, paths etc. to allow for growth of roots and branches
- Plant new hedges using native species
- Use climbing plants to cover bare walls and fences.
Many people are keen to cultivate wildflower gardens or meadows. These can be a great asset to biodiversity but remember they are not just areas left to go wild and they do require some management. Wildflowers can be encouraged by being aware of the following:
– Wildflower meadows require poor, thin soil conditions, so it’s best to remove the topsoil and not to add fertilizer.
– In rural areas especially, it’s best to use seed from existing wildflowers in the surrounding landscapes and to assist this, fresh hay from a local meadow can be strewn on the ground which is a very effective way to seed a wildflower meadow.
– Commercial seed mixes are only suitable in urban/semi urban areas such as gardens. ONLY use seed that has been sourced and grown in Ireland and use species suitable to the local area
– Ensure appropriate management to maintain the wildflowers (i.e. for a hay meadow): cut the area after the flowers have gone to seed (usually July/August). Allow the cuttings to sit for a few days for the seeds to fall out, and then remove the hay.
Creating new areas for wildlife:
- Bird feeders, bird baths, nesting boxes for birds and bats, hibernation boxes for hedgehogs, frogs, insects and more can all be incorporated into the home garden or the community landscaping plan. (see galway.ie/biodiversityguidelines for advice on appropriate siting and care)
- A pile of logs or dead leaves in a quiet corner can provide food and shelter for many small creatures or even a hibernation area for hedgehogs.
- In building design, incorporate features to support biodiversity such as: access points for bats or birds e.g. swifts, house martins
- Encourage habitat diversity. Where possible, create a range of habitats such as ponds, scrub, hedges, grassland, stone, walls etc.
- Create living bird tables or butterfly or bee patches by using plants specifically to provide food or shelter for these animals.
Traditional Breeds, varieties
You can help to conserve our farming and genetic heritage by cultivating traditional, local or rare varieties of crops such as fruit or vegetables or by keeping traditional or rare breeds of farm animals such as cattle, sheep, horses, fowl or even honey bees. Community groups could develop an organic garden with local vegetables or a heritage orchard project by planting old style fruit trees. The Irish Seed Savers Association (www.irishseedsavers.ie) will be able to offer more information. Here is a link to a brochure on Irish heritage animal breeds HC Irish rare breeds
Managing Nature Areas
Ireland’s landscape has been modified and managed by humans for thousands of years so many of our important habitats are actually semi-natural and require appropriate management to maintain and conserve them. If you are creating or enhancing habitats, ensure that you have an appropriate management regime in place for example: Cutting regimes: Hedges should be lightly trimmed in rotation every few years to maintain vigour. This is best done in late winter/early spring
- Note the Law – No hedge cutting during bird nesting season (1 Mar – 31 Aug inclusive)
- Rejuvenate old hedges by planting up, coppicing or laying.
- Mowing: Grasslands and wildflower meadows should be mown once or twice a year according to instructions.
- Planting times: For most trees the best planting times are in the autumn or the spring. Potted trees can be planted at any time of the year.
- Dredging or periodic cutting of vegetation may be needed for channels, drains or streams. This should be done in sections, on a 3-4 year rotation. Always get specialist advice from Fisheries/NPWS before undertaking any works near water courses.
- Ensure bird feeders are kept clean to avoid spreading disease or food poisoning.
- Avoid inappropriate or excessive use of fertiliser, pesticides, etc