Friday, 5 June 2020

Garden Wildlife

Most weeks of the year are dedicated to something, either nationally or globally; this week at the beginning of June happens to be National Garden Wildlife week. An appropriate theme when people across the country have been asked to stay locally and stay at home. The good weather has helped as it has been a delight to spend some time in the garden recently. But how do we link this to all the work that goes on to make Tophill a great reserve for wildlife, on such a larger scale than the majority of gardens? Well, there lies the key, as each and every small patch of space right outside our doors can be as much a haven for our local wildlife as the big expanses of nature reserve. Choosing and planting the right flowers, trees, shrubs and bushes specifically for their nectar rich blooms, broad and light canopy or energy laden berries and seeds is just like making sure that each particular habitat within the reserve is managed for specific flora and fauna to enhance the biodiversity.

Perennials are popular in wildlife gardens as once their blooms are over, the dying seed heads, if left, can provide shelter and food over the winter. Small varieties of trees can be planted even in a small space and can thrive in a container if the correct cultivar is chosen. One of the easiest to grow shrubs is buddleia, often referred to as the butterfly bush as its flowers attract a host of different butterflies later in the summer. It can grow from a single twig into a large bush that will last for years, only needing a severe pruning in late March; we have planted a whole row of these need to the roadside at the reserve. So if you are planning a trip to the garden centre to restock your garden take time to research the best choice with wildlife in mind, there is plenty of information on the RHS or RSPB sites.

Speckled wood butterfly on bramble

As well as planting there are other things that you can do in your garden to attract wildlife. Please continue to feed the birds, particularly when they are feeding young as they need that extra bit of energy which they also may have relied on throughout the winter. We have had a long dry spell so it is very important to provide clean and fresh water for birds and other wildlife; it doesn't have to be anything special or large, an old plate will suffice and it is wonderful to see birds come and use the water supply for drinking and preening.

Male house sparrow feeding on fat balls

Any kind of water is a magnet for wildlife so if you can create a pond, however small, then you will be amazed at how soon it is colonised by aquatic invertebrates, which in turn attract amphibians and also birds. One of the simplest ponds is to sink an old washing up bowl into a border or grassed area, let it fill with rainwater or use water collected in a water butt and see what comes. If you can, add a couple of submerged plants like elodea which will help to oxygenate the water. Make any pond safe by providing a simple ramp so that if any mammals fall in they can get out safely.

A small and simple pond made from an old kitchen sink soon is colonised by invertebrates

Hedgehogs have declined massively over recent years so providing suitable habitats in your own garden can be essential in saving this much loved British mammal. For any animal a habitat provides food, water and shelter so sensitive planting, providing fresh, clean water enhance a garden for wildlife. To provide suitable shelter for hedgehogs then either make or purchase a specific hedgehog house or pile up a collection of logs where one can rest in the summer and then hibernate in throughout the winter. Hedgehogs will pay you in kind by consuming those pests that might be making a feast out of a vegetable or flower bed. If you want to put out extra food then make sure it is a meat variety of cat food and never put out milk, only water.

By now with all these things in place there is a wildlife haven waiting to be explored from the comfort of your own home and people across the country have been doing just that; getting themselves familiar with those birds, butterflies, insects, mammals and amphibians that are visiting the vast network of wildlife garden reserves.

Nectar rich clover is great for attracting pollinating insects