Tag Archives: garden

Dig a pond (or rewild an old one) and nature will love you for it

Kate Bradbury writes in the Telegraph – My new pond is the heartbeat of the garden. It’s only a few weeks old, the plants are still small and the grass I sowed around the edge is but a five o’clock shadow on its muddy banks. And yet it’s permanently busy: this week I can’t see for house sparrows, and have spent hours laughing at the newly-fledged chicks taking their first bath.

Two blackbirds visit regularly for a drink and a wash, there are robins, goldfinches and tits, plus a huge herring gull that jumps in with an enormous splash and swims around in contented circles.

Photo of wildlife pond at Highdown by Leonora (Ellie) Enking under creative commons.

Gardeners urged to let lawns run wild and count flowers to help save bees

The Independent reports while many gardeners prize a well-maintained lawn, conservationists are urging people to leave their mowers in the shed and count wildflowers instead. Wildflower-studded lawns are an increasingly important source of nectar for pollinators such as bees and butterflies, wildlife charity Plantlife said.

The charity is asking people to take part in a “citizen science” project to count the daisies, dandelions and other blooms on their lawn to help experts work out more precisely how important they are for nature.

Garden feeders are supporting rising numbers of urban birds

The Guardian reports the increasingly appetising buffet provided for garden birds, from sunflower hearts to suet cakes, is supporting a rising number and greater diversity of species in Britain’s urban areas, according to research.

In the 1970s, half of all birds using garden feeders belonged to just two species, the sparrow and starling, but by the 2010s the number of species making up the same proportion had tripled, with goldfinches, woodpigeons and long-tailed tits soaring in number because of the food on offer.

At least half of British homeowners feed garden birds and researchers writing in Nature Communications found they support 133 bird species – more than half of the country’s species – and are reshaping urban bird populations.

Get your garden and its wildlife off to a good start this spring

The OBSERVER reports that the seasons seem topsy-turvy, but this is still a time of new beginnings. Here’s how to help your flowerbeds and veg plots thrive. Flower power – as soil warms, it’s time to plant perennials, but don’t just impulse-buy the first thing you see that promises pretty flowers on the label. If your garden got frazzled by the weather last summer, put drought-resistant plants that double as pollinator magnets to the top of your list.

Hungry hedgehogs breaking their winter hibernation can roam up to 2km in a night in search of food, but only if their path isn’t blocked by fences and walls. Consider cutting a hedgehog hole into existing fences or, if winter storms mean you need to replace panels, fit hog-friendly gravel boards at the base.

Once hedgehogs are in your garden, make them welcome by setting up a feeding and watering station in a sheltered spot: a dish of cat biscuits or specialist hog food are ideal. Dishes of fresh water will help hogs and other wildlife: an old dustbin lid set into the ground will make for easy access; add a pile of stones on one side so bees can come for a drink, too.

RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch 2018 Results

The 2018 results for the RPSB’s Big Garden Birdwatch have been released.  The headlines:

  • House sparrows were still top the sightings list.
  • Siskin and brambling numbers were up.
  • Small birds have overall increased.
  • Goldfinches were seen in over two-thirds of gardens.
  • Greenfinch sightings increased by 5% on last year.
  • Blackbird sightings were down by 18%.
  • Robin sightings were down by 12%.
  • Changes could be down to a milder winter meaning more food elsehere so birds weren’t so reliant on gardens, good/bad breeding seasons and other factors.

The rankings:-

  1. House sparrows
  2. Starling
  3. Blue tit
  4. Blackbird
  5. Woodpigeon
  6. Goldfinch
  7. Great tit
  8. Robin
  9. Long-tailed tit
  10. Chaffinch

Do look at the results from the RPSB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) for more detail and explanation.  And do consider participating next year.  An hour of observation provides valuable information for understanding trends and guiding conservation efforts.  And it’s a great excuse to just sit and enjoy your garden for an hour!

Feed the birds, but be aware of risks, say wildlife experts

Feeding our garden birds can provide vital energy resources for our feathered friends, but we are also responsible for making sure it doesn’t have unexpected harm. The BBC report on research by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) on the risks of disease in wild birds from garden bird feeders.

ZSL and the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) recommend:

  1. Do keep feeding your birds, especially in winter, but just be aware of the risks and how you can minimise them
  2. Clean bird feeders regularly
  3. Rotate feeding sites to avoid build up of droppings and/or regurgitated food
  4. If you notice a sick bird (e.g. unusually fluffed-up plumage and lethargic):

Learn more about what you can do to help Normandy’s wildlife.

Snow where to go

We hope you haven’t been inconvenienced by the “beast from the east” as the snow settled in Normandy.  Remember, our wildlife friends may struggle in these unusual conditions too.

Keeping your bird feeders filled will mean you could see a large number of birds, but don’t forget the water too!  As ponds and natural watering places are frozen, you could really help by filling water dishes for our feathered friends.

And you may see some more unusal visitors to your garden looking for food – fieldfare, redwing and goldcrest, for example.  The fieldfares, redwings and thrushes will love any rotting apples you leave out in the garden.

Help Hedgehogs have a Home

We are so lucky to have hedgehogs in our village, this is mainly due to the age of many of our homes meaning we have larger than average gardens that are not totally fenced in. Hedgehogs need access a range of gardens, to be able to move freely at night to snuffle in the hedgerows and under bushes.

In February and March hedgehogs will start wakening from their winter hibernation.  When exactly will depend on the weather – if we have freezing temperatures they will stay tucked up in their nests. They will also wake up on warmer evenings and have a mooch around for food in the winter.

Food and water

They are particularly fond of bird food, which is why I saw the first hedgehog in my garden – eating dropped sunflower hearts from a birdfeeder. Meal worms, sunflower hearts, chopped peanuts are favourites. They will also eat tinned dog/cat food (not fish based).

Never feed hedgehogs milk as it can cause diarrhea; instead provide plain, fresh water in a shallow bowl.

I leave a dish of food and water outside my french doors and enjoy watching the hedgehogs come at dusk to feast from March to November. Hedgehogs can travel 1-2 km a night during their active season.

Hedgehog-friendly gardening

To help hedgehogs in your garden:

· If you have a wooden fence, think about cutting a small piece out at the bottom or, as I have done, dig out soil from underneath the concrete gravel board.

· Cover drains and holes and place bricks/pebbles at the side of ponds to give hedgehogs an easy route out (yes they can swim!). Cover swimming pools overnight and when not in use.

· Check for hedgehogs before using strimmers or mowers, particularly under hedges where animals may rest. Check compost heaps for nesting hogs before forking over.

· Build bonfires as close to time of lighting as possible and check them thoroughly before lighting.

· Remove sports or fruit netting when not in use to prevent hedgehogs becoming entangled, and getting injured.

Beware of slug pellets!

These can poison hedgehogs and our lovely song and mistle thrush as they eat snails and slugs. Try using beer traps or I’ve had excellent results with a new organic product made of recycled sheep’s wool pellets.

Make a hedgehog a home

Why not make a hedgehog home, by leaving areas of the garden ‘wild’, with piles of leaf litter and logs? These are an attractive nest as well as a home for the invertebrates (slugs, beetles) that hedgehogs like to eat.

Making an artificial home can be as simple as placing a piece of board against a wall with some wood piled inside. Or, an upturned old plastic washing up bowl, covered it with leaves, tucked under a shrub in a quiet corner of the garden with no direct sunlight.

Hedgehogs don’t tend to like you putting nesting material inside, they like to forage and choose their own! So don’t rake up all those dead leaves or throw away dried ornamental grass cuttings, leave a pile in a corner or tucked under shrubs and they will take what they need. You can of course now buy purpose built hedgehog houses at a price!

 

Read also The Times’s article on How gardeners can help save the hedgehog published on 24th Feb 2018.

Sightings

Please email us with your sightings of hedgehogs seen in the village at fnwildlife@gmail.com. If you see a hedgehog out during the day or a small hedgehog in the autumn (they must weigh 600grams to survive hibernation) then please contact one of our local wildlife rescue centres – Harper Asprey (01344 623106) or Wildlife Aid (09061 800132).

Hedgehog Street has been set up nationally to monitor where hedgehogs are found and they would like you to email sightings at www.hedgehogstreet.org.

Written by Angela Gray