We have been treated to some pleasing increases in daytime temperatures in the UK over the past week, and this means you're likely to be seeing an abundance of spring flowers, birds and insects emerging into the warmth.
However, if you're lucky enough in your garden, you may also benefit from sharing the space with mammals - and a whole host of them will be venturing out and about from now onwards.
Spring is a great time to get outdoors and look out for some of these visitors, which are likely to be most active in the early evening. Britain is home to hedgehogs, bats, foxes, mice and squirrels, but you might even get badgers, weasels and stoats too.
If you're keen to attract more mammals to your garden, there are plenty of ways to go about it. Here are some of our top tips.
How does your garden grow?
If you tend to be a little regimented in your approach to gardening, try to change your ways and let things get a little wilder. This doesn't have to be everywhere - just a patch or corner of the garden allowed to grow as nature intended will benefit animals by giving them somewhere to feed and shelter. It will also mean they have somewhere to gather nest materials when it is time for them to breed.
The best way to attract little visitors to your garden is to ensure it mimics a natural environment as closely as possible. As well as letting it grow wilder, you can add extra features to create a pleasant habitat, including trees, shrubs, plants, piles of logs and nest boxes or houses for sheltering in.
In spring, lots of mammals feast on buds and blossoms, so try hazel, hawthorn, crab apple, honeysuckle and night-scented stock, the latter of which will attract lots of insects. If you can, try some ivy too, as it's beneficial for everything from mammals and birds to insects.
Log piles can provide somewhere to hide during bad weather and will also encourage minibeasts like woodlice and slugs for hedgehogs to enjoy. If you're interested in putting up nest boxes, we've got plenty in stock at CJ Wildlife, including our excellent Harlech WoodStone® Bat Boxes that come with a ten-year guarantee.
Incidentally, you might want to make a special effort for your local bats if you have them, as a new study from the University of Exeter and Bat Conservation Ireland found they may be struggling in areas that are brightly illuminated by street lamps.
The researchers explained that bats seem to be so dazzled by bright lights that it takes time for their eyes to adjust - and this could affect their ability to hunt insects. To help them out, you could try providing plenty of tree and shrub cover and adding plants that will encourage insects like moths - Buddleia, heather and ivy are great for this.
Although it may be tempting to try to get your visiting mammals 'tame', attempting hand-feeding and filling the garden with extra foodstuffs is not advisable, as it can make them too dependent on you.
However, supplementary feeding can be beneficial at times when natural food sources are scarce, such as during very wet weather like last August's. We've got plenty of specially developed mammal food at CJ Wildlife, including our Hedgehog Food that was formulated based on advice from the British Hedgehog Preservation Society, and our Badger Food. You can also add things like leftover fruit for foxes and dog food for hedgehogs.
Remember to clear uneaten scraps away regularly though, as they can breed harmful bacteria and also be an attraction for those other, rather less welcome mammals - rats.
Access is a good point to consider if you want more mammals in your garden, as not being able to get in or out easily is a big deterrent for shy creatures. Make tiny gaps in walls and fence panels every so often, as this will give them enough room to crawl through. Opening up a small gap or two in fences will allow hedgehogs and smaller creatures to pass through but should still exclude most pets. A gap just 15 x 15cm (or 5 inches square) is all that's required.
Again, piles of logs are useful because they can act as a corridor to quieter parts of the garden and also allow mammals to scramble over them.
Sit back and enjoy
If you follow this advice, there's no reason why you shouldn't see at least some of Britain's mammals enjoying the spring weather over the coming weeks. Increase your chances of spotting them by putting seating outside and sitting there quietly at dusk, when they're likely to be most active.
And if you're frustrated that your visitors seem to arrive after you've gone to bed, you could always set up an LTL Acorn Scouting Wildlife Camera, which is triggered by the change in ambient temperature wildlife causes and will automatically take photos or video clips for you to review later.