If you want to encourage wildlife to visit your garden, there are a few things you can do to to help. And if you've found yourself with a bit more time on your hands recently, there's no excuse not to!
Many species that visit our gardens are at risk, including one of the nation's favourite animals - the hedgehog.
During March and April, these charismatic creatures will be emerging from hibernation and beginning to appear in our gardens again.
Population numbers are estimated to have fallen over the past decade by around a half in rural areas and a third in towns and cities.
Hedgehogs are now listed as 'vulnerable to extinction' on Great Britain's Red List for Mammals.
There are many complex reasons for this decline, including road casualties and the intensification of agriculture. Loss of habitat is also a significant factor affecting hedgehog numbers across the UK.
Hungry hedgehogs are now emerging
Over recent years, both rural and urban landscapes have been compulsively 'tidied' so that scrubby, wilder areas have all but disappeared and our gardens have become less accessible.
Gravel boards and sturdier fences often making it almost impossible for small animals like toads, voles and hedgehogs to enter.
For a mammal that travels around a mile every night, the more accessible our gardens, the better chance each hedgehog has to find sufficient food and somewhere to shelter.
Hedgehog houses are perfect for shelter. You can buy or make your own!
To make sure that local hedgehogs have access to your garden, cut a small hole (13cm x 13cm) in fences, walls and gates.
You can then add your garden to the Hedgehog Street map and join over 70,000 other hedgehog champions who have welcomed hedgehogs into their gardens.
Since we cut holes in our fence and gate last spring, we've had evidence of hedgehogs visiting with droppings along the path and even an empty nest of leaves which we discovered in the autumn beneath the base of our honeysuckle.
Hedgehog droppings are a sure sign they've been visiting your garden!
Pile up logs, leaves and rocks to create areas for small mammals to shelter and feed on the invertebrates that live in the nooks and crannies.
Creating several mini habitats in different conditions (e.g. sunny, damp, shady or sheltered spots) attracts a wider range of invertebrates and will be better for their hedgehogs.
Letting areas of grass grow longer and planting native wildflower areas also encourages invertebrate biodiversity.
Offer food and water
In the wild, hedgehogs eat beetles, millipedes, caterpillars, earwigs, slugs and earthworms, along with any carrion, birds' eggs and fallen fruit they come across.
In addition to these natural food sources, the British Hedgehog Preservation Society advises offering water, complete cat biscuits and meaty cat or dog food, especially in cold or dry periods and before they go into hibernation.
These foods should all be supplementary to the hedgehog's natural diet, so providing access to healthy habitats with a plentiful supply of invertebrates is the best ways to encourage these iconic mammals back into our gardens.
For other ideas about how to make your garden more hedgehog-friendly, check out this article: