NotcuttsWheelbarrow

We welcome this guest post by Mr McGregor who has been working in the garden industry for over 27 years. He is a gardening enthusiast who also loves to grow his own fruit and veg, and regularly shares his opinions and advice on many gardening blogs.

Wildlife plays a vital role in the garden; bees help to pollinate plants while some insects can help to discourage predators that can damage flowers from entering your garden. You may automatically think that bugs are pests and are be something you should control, but in reality these insects are imperative to your garden’s ecosystem. 

You may or may not be aware but your garden walls and home can provide a safe haven for wildlife, offering shelter, food and a range of climates that enable them to thrive. It’s just as important to take care of your home’s exterior as it is the interior. In every nook and cranny you can find an array of wildlife nesting and making themselves at home.

Walls are fantastic places for wall mason wasps, snails and harvestmen along with many other invertebrates. Cracks can serve as a refuge over the winter months and flat surfaces can provide a feeding ground for such creatures. Butterflies can also benefit from garden walls. During the spring, wall surfaces can offer a basking ground for small peacock, tortoiseshell and comma butterflies; and during the winter can provide a home for white butterfly chrysalises. Walls are extremely popular with birds, not only for the amount of food these premises harbour, but if you’re growing climbers they can also provide a nesting site.

To keep attracting butterflies to your garden I would recommend you grow such plants such as the following, though you'll find many others at your local garden centre:

  • Buddleja
  • Echinacea purpurea
  • Cheiranthus wall flower
  • Erysimum wall flower

What is more unusual is finding species of lizards. Old and rundown walls in more rural areas can surprisingly be inhabited by common small lizards that are on the hunt for food.

If you are planning to undergo any repairs it’s extremely important to be wary of any wildlife you could potentially disturb. Check every nook and cranny, crack and crevice to see if bats have decided to reside there, or if birds such as great tits and redstarts have nested there. Also be cautious of the season you decide to repair the wall; please keep in mind the nesting season and work around it.

Nest boxes and feeding tables can also help to attract birds into the garden. A nest box can be extremely useful if you want to carry out repair work to your wall as it provides an alternative home for offspring.

The walls of our garden and home can be a wonderful place for wildlife to relish in, and there are many simple ways to encourage further wildlife into your garden. I hope this article has encouraged you to consider and conserve the magnitude of wildlife your simple garden wall can harbour.

Butterfly attracting plants, nesting boxes and bird tables can all be found at most popular garden centres.

Disclaimer: this post provided courtesy of Notcutts, for which no money (or anything else) has changed hands.

The BBC has an absolutely brilliant gallery of woodland wonders, from the Woodland Trust's recent photo competition, as judged by Simon King. Definitely worth a look.

ToadsMating
Spring is very much in the air. In fact summer is making a strong bid to knock spring off its perch already! Spring means animals getting more than a little randy, and this pair of Common toads are doing what comes naturally. Actually they're not in the act itself, but are engaging in a special hold where the male hitches a ride on the female for a few days, known as 'amplexus'.

These particular toads were seen in CenterParcs, Sherwood forest (more from there over the following days) where they were frankly abundant, with plenty of their fellow toads to be seen squashed on the road. The perfect page on toads, where I learnt about amplexus and many more interesting things is to be found at herpetofauna.co.uk.

And for my parting shot, is this "doing it froggy style"?

CommonToad
Thanks to Jenny for sending in this great picture of a young Common toad. At least I assume it's young as it seems rather small in relation to the grass. It might seem surprisingly brown, but apparently that's within normal range, especially in hot weather.

I see toads extremely rarely in my neck of the woods (I can't remember the last time) so it's nice to see this picture. You may be more likely to see their spawn, as evidence of toads in the locality, which forms long strings as opposed to the clumps of frogspawn.

LizardMadeira
Your intrepid UKNB editor has been on tour, this time to the Portuguese island of Madeira, off the coast of Morocco. Take a look at this Google map if you're not sure where I mean exactly.

One of the things I love about sunny climes such as Madeira (which was 26c by day, 21c by night) is the little lizards festooning every sun-baked stone surface, even the heart of the town. Apparently these are Madeiran wall lizards, though I'm not sure if the one pictured above is one of those specifically (as they look more like monitors, which the one above doesn't).

They tend to dart away if you get within a metre or two and are lightning quick so I assumed it would be very difficult to catch one. This YouTube video (which is nothing to do with me) shows that I was wrong!

SmoothNewts2

A few things I've noticed of late:

  • Lots of ladybirds about, especially 7-spot.
  • Garden full of Gatekeeper butterflies all of a sudden, often in pairs. This is their time of year apparently.
  • Slugs and snails living it up in the recent boughts of wetness (and eaten all our courgette plants) though it's still fundamentally dry out there and some plants are struggling.
  • I have a large wasp's nest in the hedge – about the size of a football. I think they're Median wasps, so not the usual sort: bigger but much less agressive and bothersome. I blogged about them once before when I saw a single wasp before I discovered the nest.
  • I saw a Red kite circling above the garden lower than I've seen it before – probably just 50 feet up or so. Their successful comeback seems to continue apace.
  • Smooth newts are easily terrified and they just freeze. They also looks just like little lizards. I found one crawling across my decking the other night – frozen stiff at my sudden appearance. The picture above is a pair I found on a previous occasion.
  • Wasps of all sorts are particularly evident now. Presumably their numbers have swelled as they built up the size of their colonies over recent months. August is traditionally a waspy time of year and before long they'll be drunk on rotten apples.

FrogInTheHand
There's nothing quite like a fresh frog. A small, young frog is just so glisteningly 'new' and jewel-like.

Frogspawn

The natural world is springing up around us so it's an exciting time to watch it grow. Here are a few things I have noticed of late.

  • Bees are out in force, both bumble and honey.
  • Lacewings seem to have been particularly numerous compared to previous years. I've seen loads of them in various buildings in various parts of the country.
  • I saw my first butterfly of the year: a Comma, which overwinter as adults to emerge in March.
  • The lawn has received its first cut of the year (and it's second today) though my neighbours blinked first :-)
  • Daffodils are everywhere, whilst snowdrops are almost completely done.
  • Birds are noisily celebrating. Magpies in particular seem to be building nests as I see them flying with twigs, but I imagine many species are doing so.
  • Ponds are full of frogspawn (pictured), and presumably other types of spawn.

The BBC reports on a survey of UK reptiles and amphibians that suggests numbers of most are in decline. Adders, toads, lizards and pretty much everything else apart from Palmate newts are seemingly struggling since 2007 when the surveying began.

I'd illustrate this article with a picture of an adder but I'm afraid I've never seen one let along photographed one. It sounds like my chances are shrinking.

Norfolk Wildlife Trust have a great website with resources to help in surveying many different kinds of wildlife, from ponds to fungi. The forms are designed to be sent back to report on wildlife in Norfolk, but there's so much great information and guidance that they should be of interest to anybody.