I am a very heat intolerant person. I’ll happily moan about the hot summer weather and I don’t care who it annoys because you know what? Hot weather makes me feel ill. It makes me dizzy, it gives me palpitations, it exacerbates all the dangerous cardiac symptoms of my chronic illness and anyone who insists that I should be obliged to enjoy hot weather can do one.
This year, the UK has been “enjoying” (read: suffering) from extreme Mediterranean temperatures. I live in the driest county – East Anglia – and we haven’t had a single, solitary drop of rain for nearly 2 months. It’s been between 20-30 everyday and this week the office has been 32 degrees! I happen to have unwisely chosen this summer to be pregnant, so that’s also making me hot, sweaty and intolerant.
Our garden birds have been bringing this year’s young to our feeders, and that’s at least one thing I’ve been happy to see, but I am worried for them. I can’t put down water because the cat will get them. How are they keeping hydrated? How are farmland birds getting at worms in the parched earth? While the hot weather has been good for some species – reptiles and butterflies – it has been bad for others, including amphibians and birds. Not to mention the devastating wild fires that have spread across moorland and farmland, which will have had a huge impact on the flora and fauna dependent on them.
So how can we look after wildlife in the heatwave?
- Leave out water dishes (make sure they are regularly cleaned and topped up and placed in a shady spot away from the hiding places of predators.)
- Leave out another water dish for bird baths – they need to keep their feathers clean and it helps to refresh them.
- Watch out for sleeping hedgehogs when you mow the lawn (there’s a brilliant poem by Philip Larkin on this matter; you can read it here.)
- Make a pond from a washing up bowl to give a cool, watery habitat for frogs and toads. The RSPB has some great advice on how to do this – you can read my experience of creating a garden pond in this blogpost.
- Keep your plants watered – wild plants can die in this heat, making our garden flowers even more attractive to pollinators.
- Don’t trim your hedges (you shouldn’t this time of year anyway!) as they can provide vital shade. In particular, let the ivy grow.
- Create nature highways between your garden and others. This is good advice for all year round but it really comes in handy in a heatwave to make it easier for hedgehogs and other animals to move between habitats in the hunt for food.
- Know which local animal charity numbers to ring if you see an animal in distress – the RSPCA website is a good place to start.
- Don’t forget pets! Take dogs for walks in the mornings or evenings and not in the midday sun. If it’s very hot, avoid hot surfaces like pavements as these can burn the dog’s paws. Cats will take care of themselves but make sure they have water, food and shade and keep the fleas at bay.
I hope this advice proves helpful! How are you keeping cool?