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.

Time to come out of hibernation! Here is a random assortment of things:

  • Did you know that Harvestmen (Opiliones) cluster together in a dense mass? Neither did I, but there are some great videos out there. People tend to name them incorrectly as spiders mind you. Note that Americans call them Daddy Long Legs, but we use that name for Crane Flies mostly.
  • If you missed WinterWatch on the BCC over the last week, it's all available online, incluing "Live: Winterwatch at the Big Garden Birdwatch" throughout this weekend.
  • I wish someone would invent a bird feeder that's impervious to terrible weather. I find that mine get wet inside courtesy of the rain driving in sideways pretty much every day. Then the contents stick together and go mouldy, requiring a full clean out only a couple of days after filling them. Does anyone know of such a feeder?

WinterBerries

These should keep the birds going for a while, along with the orange ones on the pyracantha. The blackbirds always seem to start at the top and gradually strip the plant towards the ground, presumably because it's safer higher up.

DryGrass

Here are a few things I've noticed recently.

  • Blimey it's hot! The grass is dying and many trees are dropping leaves. And perhaps weeks of 30c yet to come.
  • Butterflies are about – mainly small tortoiseshell in my garden.
  • Loads of bumblebees of various sorts, but not so many honey bees.
  • Crane flies are the most numerous thing to fly in our open windows in the evening.
  • I hadn't really seen any wasps until about a week ago, but now quite a few of them are about, including a nest in my roof, right next to the velux window. Great.
  • Blackbirds and wood pigeons are particularly populous on the lawn right now, but maybe that's just my lawn.

HobbyWickenFen2
More from my wonderful day at Wicken Fen – this time focussing on hobbies. The bird, not the pastime. When I was there the sky was full of them, which was great as I'd never actually seen one before – at least not such that I was sure it wasn't a kestrel. Now I've been well schooled! Up close the colouring and patterns are completely different to a kestrel, but from afar it's probably the wing shape that gives them away best, being long, thin and slightly sickle-shaped at times – bringing to mind a Swift, at least a little bit. Of course the behaviour is another clue.

Delighting in the Latin name Falco subbuteo, they are small and extremely agile, mostly catching insects and other birds on the wing. In fact I even managed to get a picture of one sampling the in-flight food, albeit from afar. Our guide said that they were flying much higher than usual because the dragonflies were late emerging.

HobbyWickenFen-CatchingInsect

Obscure reference: if you have not yet drunk your weak lemon drink, drink it now, for there will not be time later!

04. June 2013 · 1 comment · Categories: Birds, News

CraneWickenFen
I recently enjoyed a wonderful day at Wicken Fen, a National Trust nature reserve in Cambridgeshire. I saw lots of wonderful things (many pictures stacked up for posting here soon) but one of the biggest highlights was to see a common crane flying overhead.

Given there are just a few breeding pairs in the UK this is quite a sight and apparently all the more exciting to see just one. We were on a boat trip down the lode at the time and our guide explained that there was a local pair, usually seen flying together, but to see only one aloft might indicate that they had settled on a nest successfully, with eggs to be cared for. That said, a recent update of the Wicken Fen sightings blog suggests that the pair may have moved on and this is just a lonesome crane. Either way it's great to see such a big bird in our skies.

BabyCoots

Thanks to regular correspondent David for these great photos from his visit to Martin Mere Wetland Centre in Lancashire. Coots, Moorhens, Water Rails and Crakes, along with many others around the world, are collectively known as "rails" or "rallidae" more officially.

Here we see the ugly side of the family. Coot chicks, which you might easily think were Moorhen chicks given their colouration and that only a mother could love, frankly.

Below, fighting moorhens, their greeny legs scrapping in the water. I saw Moorhens fighting like this just today at Wicken Fen – more on that trip another time!

FightingMoorhens

08. May 2013 · 1 comment · Categories: Birds, News

MysteryThrush

The BBC reports on recent studies into the power of bird song to lift the mood, aid concentration without distracting, stop you falling asleep after a big lunch and make you better appreciate petrol station toilets, amongst many other benefits.

The potential effects of a birdsong background are really quite startling (or quite Starling perhaps) and it's a really interesting article. I can vouch for the restorative effects of a walk in the countryside with lots of birdsong, including the first cuckoo I'd heard this year at the weekend.

Here’s a genuinely interesting infographic (all the rage at the moment) about the birds in your garden and feeding them – courtesy of Anglian Home Improvements. Perhaps I should get them to extend my blog sideways so their massive infographic actually fits!

Garden birds are in decline. Find out how you can show our feathered friends some love & all about #birdwatching in Britain

This birdwatching infographic was created by Anglian Home Improvements, click on the image above to find out more about this infographic and its origins


FightyPheasant-Before
  FightyPheasant-After

As promised, here are more of David's fantastic pheasant photos, following on from the delectable close-ups of the first post. This time, before and after photos from a presumed fight. David tells it best:

I use a bird hide at Threave Gardens a Scottish National Trust property nearby and had been admiring this Cock Pheasant and his three hens for some time  and all was well one morning. Next time I was up, late afternoon on the same day this bedraggled pheasant appeared with only one hen. I was aware that there was another Cock Pheasant in the woods but thought my “friend” was the dominant bird. I think the two photographs portray the brutality of nature, particularly at mating time.