Creating a safe haven for wildlife

Create a safe and welcoming environment for bugs and birds.

Shelter is a basic need, not just for people but for birds and many other forms of garden wildlife.

Providing shelter in the form of nesting logs, owl boxes, bat houses and bug hotels will attract a diversity of wildlife into your garden and will be your best pest controllers too.

Not to mention the pleasure we can get from their presence.

Marlaen Straathof has gone beyond the range of Kirchhoffs seed to include products for garden wildlife – from nesting logs and other shelters to bird feeders and bird food.

For the birds

Barbet nesting logs are not only used by the three different bar bets, but will attract other nesting birds like woodpeckers and yellow-fronted Tinker birds.

Birds generally nest and lay eggs between September and December, so setting up the logs now means the birds can get accustomed to them as potential nesting sites.

It’s a good idea to put up more than one nesting log in alternate areas in a quiet part of the garden. Take some time to observe the bird activity which may help with the selection of sites.

Secure the nesting log with soft binding wire on the underside of a branch or trunk that’s as thick as the nesting log. The higher the log the better. It should be at least 4m from the ground.

What is very important is that the log must not face north or west as it will overheat from the sun. East- or south-facing is best.

To prevent predators, cut away nearby branches.

Once the barbets move on, other birds including sparrows, kingfishers, hoopoes, finches and starlings will take over the nesting logs.

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Beautiful and Colourful Owl. Picture: iStock
Beautiful and Colourful Owl. Picture: iStock

Winter feeding

Birds need supplementary feeding in winter and in her garden, Straathof has observed many more birds flocking for the suet and seed she puts out.

Suet is a high-fat and protein feed that helps birds to maintain their energy levels, especially in cooler weather.

Hang suet slabs from a tree, use a suet feeder or put the suet balls on a feeding tray. Ensure that you keep the tray-type feeders clean by washing and removing scraps.

A source of water is also important.

Owls on the prowl

If you are aware of owls in your area, you may want to consider an owl nesting box, especially if there is a problem with rats.

Owls in suburban areas are usually the spotted eagle-owl and the barn owl.

They are most likely to use a nesting box away from human activity, on the shaded side of an outbuilding or tree, and fixed high up, out of reach of predators.

Flying Bat. Picture: iStock
Flying Bat. Picture: iStock

Bat houses

Many people are scared of bats because of the old wives’ tale that they like to make a nest in your hair.

What is true is that they eat mosquitoes and other flying pests and also pollinate fruit trees like avocados, figs, mangoes and peaches.

The best place for a bat house is under the eaves of the roof, on the side of a wall or on a tall pole, but not above a window or doors.

A bat house should be west-facing to catch the warmth of the afternoon sun and mounted high, at least 3m-6m above the ground.

Wooden bird nesting box. Picture: iStock
Wooden bird nesting box. Picture: iStock

Bug hotels

Kirchhoffs provides a well-constructed bug hotel that can be turned into a five-star dwelling with additional materials like rolled-up tubes where lacewings and other insects can breed, bundles of twigs for ladybirds and ground beetles, and straw, dried grass, dried leaves or rolled-up cardboard for a range of insects.

The beneficial insects play an important role in pollinating vegetables, flowers and fruit while beneficial predators take care of the undesirables.

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