Many foods we enjoy are also hits with the birds, especially during the colder months when there are fewer natural food sources available and they need extra calories to stay warm.
Try sprinkling some of these treats on your bird table and see which birds come along. Maybe you'll see robins or starlings or you may be lucky enough to see a winter migrant bird such as a redwing.
Some ideas :
Another great option is packaged food. Sparrows, tits and finches will visit feeders containing nuts, fat or seed mixtures. Insect-eaters including dunnocks, robins, starlings and wrens prefer mealworms, while suet-based products are an all-round crowd-pleaser, their high calories providing a boost for birds through the cold nights.
As for drinks – water is key for birds, both to drink and to clean their feathers so they’re in tip-top condition to fly and keep themselves warm. Birds can find it harder to find water in the winter as ponds start to freeze, so they appreciate a bird bath. Even a dustbin lid with some stones at the bottom for grip will do the job. Water keeps freezing? Try floating a ping pong ball on the surface. The slightest gust of wind will keep the ball moving and stop the water turning to ice.
You can also help your neighbourhood birds by taking part in the Big Garden Birdwatch. Every year for the past four decades the RSPB has asked people to look outside and let them know which birds they see over the course of an hour. This helps keep track of how garden birds are faring. Last year a record-breaking one million people joined in. You can take part on the 28, 29, or 30 January 2022, so for your FREE Big Garden Birdwatch guide, which includes an RSPB shop voucher and advice on how to help you attract wildlife to your garden, text BIRD to 70030 or visit www.rspb.org.uk/birdwatch. Registration opens 8 December 2021. (images copyright Ben Andrew/ Chris Gomersal/ RSPB)
A Born Free adoption is the gift that gives twice. From King the lion to the Brown Bear Orphans, there are 19 fabulous adoptions to choose from. All are real animals, either living in the wild and protected by Born Free's conservation projects or receiving expert lifetime care in the charity's sanctuaries.
Besides adopting an animal, you can buy your Christmas gifts here too. A varying percentage of profits from sales, depending on product, go directly to Born Free, the international wildlife charity founded in 1984 by actors Bill Travers MBE and Virginia McKenna OBE.
Adoption packs last one year. The recipient receives a gift pack, soft toy and a bi annual copy of Born Free’s Adopt magazine.
Donkey Sanctuary Monopoly Game - Hot property! One of the most popular board games of all time given a Donkey Sanctuary makeover. (£29.95)
Donkey Design Socks - Everybody loves socks for Christmas and The Donkey Sanctuary has a pair to suit everyone! Show off your love for donkeys with these fun ankle-length socks available in
various colours, sizes and styles. (from £4.75)
Sails and Canvas shopper bag with donkey ears logo This shopping bag was once part of the sail on a boat. It now has a new job as your next bag for life. (£48)
Stainless Steel Insulated Drinks Bottle with Donkey ears design. (£19.95)
Watercolour ceramic mug Brighten up your beverage with this marvellous mug. Features delightful donkeys and dragonflies design. (£6.75)
Donkey and Bird pack of 10 Christmas cards by James Green. Gorgeous woodcut-style picture featuring a donkey and strikingly scarlet robin in a wintry wood. (£3.95)
Donkey Hoof Print Coir Door Mat (£15.95)
Collapsible Dog Bowl in The Donkey Sanctuary’s colours of blue and brown (£12.95)
Dougal The Doorstop Dougal will prop things open nicely, while looking utterly a-door-able.(£14.95)
Watercolour Recycled Packable Shopping Bag with donkey design. (£5.95)
Delightful Donkey design hanging basket bracket. Strong and attractive basket bracket. Something to add a bit of metallic magic to your garden. (£22.95)
Key Rack with Donkey Design. (£10.95)
Adopt a Donkey as a unique gift for £3 per month and your loved one will receive two portraits of their donkey, four beautiful postcards, adoption certificate, keepsake membership card and updates throughout the year. Most importantly, it helps The Donkey Sanctuary’s work in the UK and across the world.
See website for more details: https://www.thedonkeysanctuary.org.uk/shop
Dogs Trust asks the nation: is now really the right time for you to get a dog?
Charity concerned about impending puppy crisis as online searches to ‘get a puppy’ rise by 120%
DogsTrust is asking the public to weigh up if they are actually ready for the realities of dog ownership before taking the leap, as searches to get a dog have shot up in the past month while the country is on lockdown.
The charity is concerned there may be a spike in people giving up their dog when normality resumes and reality sinks in. This is the sad state of affairs that often follows Christmas when people also get dogs on a whim.
Dog ownership can be rewarding, but caring for a dog when you are at home 24/7 is not the norm, so the charity is temporarily tweaking its famous slogan to ‘A Dog Is For Life, Not Just For Lockdown’ to get everyone to think twice before going ahead with a puppy purchase.
In the long-term, are you ready…
Dogs Trust’s Chief Executive, Owen Sharp, said:
“Dog ownership can be so rewarding, but it’s also a huge responsibility which is why we are reminding people today that ‘A Dog Is For Life, Not Just For Lockdown’.
Like Christmas, when people are at home more, they might think now is the perfect time to get a dog. For some people this will be the case, but we’re asking people to consider when the lockdown lifts how your life will need to change to accommodate your four-legged friend.
We’re encouraging potential dog owners to carry out our test (see below) to find out if you’re Dog Ready. Are you ready to be chief pooper scooper? Are you ready to forego a lie in ever again? As well as more serious questions around vet treatment and preparing for emergencies. If there is still a dog- shaped space in your life, then it may be the right time for you.”
Graham Norton, owner of Labradoodle Bailey, TV presenter and Dogs Trust supporter said:
“As a dog owner myself, I know how much joy four-legged friends bring to our lives. I’ve certainly found that my gorgeous dog, Bailey, has taken the boredom out of lockdown for me, and I’ve really enjoyed spending even more time with him than usual. However, whilst the thought of introducing a cute, fluffy pooch to your family right now might be appealing, I fully support Dogs Trust’s important message, ‘A Dog Is For Life, Not Just For Lockdown’. Don’t forget that you still have to walk a dog on a rainy evening and pick up their poo in the dark!
Please remember that life will go back to ‘normal’ at some point with people returning to work and school, and when this happens you need to think about whether you can still fit a dog into your life. Taking a look at Dogs Trust’s ‘are you dog ready’ test is a great place to start if you’re thinking seriously about getting a dog.”
Dogs Trust are asking people to take the test and see how ‘dog-ready’ they actually are. If you think you are ready for a dog, although centres are closed to the public, rehoming is happening on a limited basis. Please see website for details. Take the fun test here.
Known as 'Lucy’s Law' and named after Lucy, a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel who died in 2016 after being subjected to appalling conditions on a Welsh puppy farm, the legislation will mean that anyone looking to buy or adopt a puppy or kitten must now either deal directly with a breeder or visit an animal rehoming centre or shelter.
Lucy’s Law means that puppies and kittens can no longer be sold by or through a third party; for example a commercial pet shop. Only breeders who have bred the animal themselves will be legally allowed to sell puppies and kittens to prospective pet owners, from the animal’s place of birth.
This means that anyone looking to buy or adopt a puppy or kitten under six months old must either deal directly with a breeder, or an animal rehoming centre. Puppy sales will only legally be completed after they are eight weeks old from the home or environment in which they were born and within the presence of the breeder and the mother.
The ban will put an end to the early separation of puppies and kittens from their mothers, as well as the terrible conditions in which some animals are bred. Such practices can cause lifelong socialisation issues for the animals, as well as increasing the likelihood of them developing preventable diseases. Besides protecting and improving animals lives, the ban will also protect the public from being tricked by unscrupulous sellers and deter puppy smugglers who abuse the Pet Travel Scheme (PETS) by bringing underage puppies into the UK, which are then sold on for financial gain.
Mayhew’s support for Lucy’s Law
The decision to ban third party sales follows years of high profile campaigning by animal welfare charities including Mayhew and was taken following a public consultation in 2018 that revealed a 95% support for the ban.
Staff at an animal sanctuary have had to install security cameras in a bid to discover how a diminutive donkey kept escaping from her paddock. Bemused grooms at international animal welfare charity The Donkey Sanctuary were left dumbfounded after nine year old miniature donkey Tally managed to escape from her paddock on an almost daily basis to munch on lush grass nearby. Although staff stepped up daily patrols to see if they could spot Tally in the act, the equine escapologist always evaded being caught.
Tally’s paddock, shared with 10 other miniature donkeys, was divided by an electric fence, but every morning Tally would be found on the other side of the fence munching on the long grass.
After weeks of head-scratching, the team at the Devon-based charity decided to take drastic action and installed close circuit television. It wasn't long before the herd’s Houdini was caught red-hooved. Footage revealed Tally simply ducking under and lifting the wire over her back, seemingly unaffected by the mild shock from the fence.
The team found that Tally was coming to no harm during her escapades and as the paddock she was escaping into was secure, they decided to turn a blind-eye to her adventures. The Donkey Sanctuary’s Maxine Carter explained: “In all my years looking after donkeys I’ve never come across any animal so good at escaping as Tally. We tried everything to try and stop her getting out of her paddock but she out-thought us every time. She’s making a real name for herself. If she were human, you’d probably be saying ‘lock her up’ because she’s been into every sweet shop going, gorging on all the goodies!
We’ve thought up different ways to try to stop her having free-rein to the longer grass, but she’s found the knack and at the end of the day, that’s where she wants to be and that’s where she’s happy, so we just need to keep an eye on her.”
Miniature donkeys originate from Sardinia and Sicily. They are a separate donkey breed in their own right, generally no higher than 91 cm.
Tally, along with her miniature donkey friends can be visited at the The Donkey Sanctuary’s Sidmouth site in Devon and people can also keep an eye on her antics by logging on to the live webcam.
Vets at the world’s largest donkey hospital have come up with a novel idea to help one of their donkeys cope with the bright sunshine as he recovers from temporarily losing his sight
Jonty’s special ‘bug-eyed’ mask certainly makes him stand out from the crowd at The Donkey Sanctuary’s international headquarters in Devon. The unusual eyewear helps block UV rays. Problems started for Jonty when he stood on a thorn which painfully embedded itself into his hoof. Following a simple procedure at the state-of-the-art donkey hospital the thorn was removed, but things got worse for Jonty.
Vicky Grove, a Veterinary Surgeon at The Donkey Sanctuary says, “The stress of the injury possibly triggered the recurrence of a chronic eye problem. Jonty suffered an immune-mediated inflammation of his whole eye and lost his sight.”
The veterinary team needed to protect their patient from strong sunlight, and the special mask – which gives Jonty his bug-eyed appearance – was just the ticket to block UV rays.
Vicky adds, “The mask is just like wearing sunglasses and Jonty has made some good progress, though the back of his eye is still damaged. We are monitoring his eyes with an ophthalmoscope and have tested his eyesight with an obstacle course, which he has completed so we think he is now just partially-sighted.”
Jonty will wear his mask for much of the summer and the sanctuary’s vets will monitor his progress. Let's all keep our fingers crossed that Jonty's sight keeps improving!
Jonty is currently convalescing at one of The Donkey Sanctuary’s farms, which is not open to the public. It is hoped that following respite he will be brought back to the charity’s main sanctuary in Sidmouth, which is open to members of the public. There he will join a small group including another partially-sighted male donkey called Will.
The Donkey Sanctuary recently took in a pair of rescue donkeys, Stuart and Bob. Their hooves were grossly overgrown. When post-surgery complications led to the difficult decision to put Bob to sleep, Stuart needed help to start his life afresh.
Above: Stuart at the clinic before his hooves were trimmed Above: Stuart with trimmed hooves
The Sanctuary's welfare team are always on hand to support donkeys in need, so when the RSPCA contacted them about two donkeys they had seized on veterinary advice, the Sanctuary responded right away to help plan the best course of action. Along with Bob, Stuart’s feet had become so overgrown that his toes were curling up – rendering even a the shortest of walks a painful ordeal.
Head of Welfare, Hannah Bryer, visited the pair at the equine clinic in Staffordshire where they had been taken for treatment. “I could see right away that both donkeys needed corrective care on their hooves from an expert farrier,” said Hannah. “Their overgrown and misshapen feet were causing them pain and affected their ability to stand or walk normally.”
Above: Bob in hospital Above: Stuart and Bob in trailer
Both donkeys underwent routine assessments, treatment and, for Bob, a castration procedure that every stallion receives when coming into the Sanctuary's care. The journey of this donkey duo took a heartbreaking turn when Bob suffered post-operation complications and – despite extensive veterinary treatment – the difficult decision was taken to put him to sleep.
Donkeys form close bonds, and the impact of such a sudden loss can in turn be a life threatening event for the donkey that loses its companion. The team knew that it was vital that Stuart got all the support he needed, and for him to be relocated to another group of donkeys as soon as possible.
Chris Pile, farm manager at the Derbyshire centre, was there to transport the bereft Stuart to his new home. “It’s quite a stressful thing for a donkey to lose their mate,” he said. “We did keep a close eye on him, particularly in the first three weeks when there’s a higher risk of hyperlipaemia – a potentially fatal disease often brought on by stress – but he took it all in his stride and seems to have bounced back very well.” On arrival, Stuart spent some time in an isolated area before joining a group of playful boys where thankfully, he settled in straight away.
Although Stuart now looks like a different donkey, Chris says that such extensive neglect to his hooves will take time to overcome. “When we first met Stuart it was of course the feet that came to our attention – that was our main concern. He had adapted to that way of walking and our worry was that if we corrected lots of the hoof straight away that it might cause some pain. So, we have been correcting the shape of the hoof a little bit at a time to allow him to get used to his new feet.”
In spite of all he’s been through, Stuart is taking strides in the right direction and is undergoing training with a renewed spring in his step. Hopes are high that someday he will find a new friend to fill Bob’s shoes and maybe even join the Donkey Sanctuary's Rehoming Scheme.
Nibbling on grass is natural for cats. Research has not yet shown why domestic cats are attracted to it, but it could be linked to the fact that wild cats will often eat grass after they have devoured their prey, helping them expel the indigestible parts. Another theory is that cats eat grass for some trace minerals and vitamins A and D. Whatever the reason, cats seem to love it!
At Mayhew, they grow cat grass in pots and place them in the enclosures of the adult cats and vaccinated kittens for them to munch on, which they do with gusto! Another firm favourite with many of the home's feline residents is catnip, which is also grown at Mayhew for them to enjoy. If you’ve ever seen a cat around catnip then you’ll know that they can go totally crazy for it, becoming more playful, loving and confident. The sedative effects of catnip can also really help to calm down a stressed kitty, reducing anxiety and depression.
“When cats first come to us, they can be nervous about their new surroundings, but once we offer them catnip leaves or pouches filled with Valerian (another good stress-relieving plant) even the most withdrawn cat will investigate!” Kayleigh Kilcommons Head of Cattery
Ones to watch out for
As pets look forward to exploring the flora and fauna this summer, remember that some plants should be steered well clear of. Foxgloves, daffodils (especially the bulbs), cherry laurel, rhododendrons, wisteria and chrysanthemums can be toxic if eaten. Lilies, although very beautiful, are particularly toxic to cats and can cause severe kidney damage. If you think your dog or cat has ingested a toxic plant, it is essential that you seek veterinary advice immediately.
Read here to find out which plants and herbs are best for dogs
Find out more about the MAYHEW here
The medicinal benefits of herbs and plants for humans are well known; however, you may be surprised to hear that plants can help our canine and feline friends too, from soothing skin conditions to aiding anxiety sufferers. Many of the animals at Mayhew have endured tough times before coming through the doors. Providing access to safe plants in a secure environment can offer them comfort and reduce stress levels as they are prepared for their new forever homes.
Sensory enjoyment for Mayhew's dogs
Mayhew has developed a sensory garden for the dogs in their care. This outdoor run acts as a safe haven, made up of different smells, textures and sounds. The plants in the garden provide stimulation and enrichment but each has also been specifically chosen for its healing properties and ability to reduce stress and anxiety.
Top plants for pooches
Chamomile: soothes anxiety, skin issues or stomach upsets.
Lavender: reduces anxiety.
Vervain: helps with nervous system disorders like depression.
Meadowsweet: reduces inflammation and aids digestive problems, arthritis and rheumatic conditions.
Did you know?
Dogs can suffer from hay fever just like people! Some research suggests that dogs are more likely to develop signs of hay fever if they aren’t exposed to a variety of grasses and plants in their early life.
As the weather improves, staff take the dogs into the sensory garden as much as possible, letting them potter around and enjoy games with toys – or water when it is very hot! The space is also used to work on basic training or socialisation skills and sometimes dogs will meet their potential adopters here, as it is a calming environment and the dogs feel at home. The Kennels team and volunteers are always on hand, watching over the dogs in case they have any unusual adverse reactions to the plants.
MARIA MARKEY, HEAD OF KENNELS, “It is truly amazing to observe the change in behaviour from when a dog enters the garden to how they are when they leave. ”
Scenting and exploring
Some dogs that come to Mayhew struggle to cope initially with a kennel environment, but staff find that even the most withdrawn and overwhelmed dogs will investigate the plants in the sensory garden. For example, dogs that are particularly highly strung or have hormonal imbalances often gravitate towards clary sage. While engaged in scenting and exploring, they stop focusing on any anxieties or tensions they may have and are able to begin to relax. The staff also use essential oil remedies in the kennels, to soothe and calm the residents.
Click here to read more about the Mayhew and how you can help
And of course, not only dogs appreciate herbs and plants, Mayhew's cats do too..... read about them here
I'm Gilly, award winning journalist, travel writer and 12 x author. Published credits include the Telegraph, Mail, CNN, Express, BBC magazines, The Lady, Take a Break, etc