Blogger: Jacqui Miller, Conservation Officer

I used to go to lots of places to look for wildlife – everything from walks on the common to trips to remote Scottish Islands to listen to corncrakes, but always going somewhere. I would occasionally peer out at the garden, but it was a bout of flu that really made me look that bit closer to home.

I should have known that my garden would be a good spot for wildlife. The day I viewed my house I found a grass snake basking in the garden, much to the horror of the estate agent who obviously thought it couldn’t have been much worse for business had I found a rat in the kitchen! On the contrary, it sealed the deal for me!

I started watching my garden in the winter while wrapped up in blankets, recovering from the dreaded lurgy. With snow on the ground, birds were flocking to the feeders. Sometimes there seemed to be a competition to see how many long-tailed tits could fit on one suet block (at least 9)! I watched them for hours, and saw all kinds of little details I would normally miss. From then on I was hooked, watching my garden whenever I got the chance.

Spring eventually arrived and birds began to build nests in the hedges and around the house. My garden is small, but it still provided a safe nesting place for at least four families, and it was great to see the busy parents bringing in beakful after beakful of insects to the hungry chicks. As the weather continued to get warmer, I began to see that my garden was home to many more creatures as well as my bird families – hoverflies, crickets, butterflies and moths, bats – I counted over 100 species this year. I found I particularly loved the tiny bright hoverflies dashing around the pond and shrubs, fighting for territory. They seemed to live a fast and furious life!

Hoverfly Xanthogramma pedissequum in my garden

In July I started to notice a rustling in my compost heap. I had made the heap hoping the grass snakes might return, but this sounded a bit too big to be a snake. I hid and watched ... eventually I saw ... hedgehogs! An adult and three babies came out that evening to forage under the shrubs. I felt privileged to have this declining garden favourite breeding in my little patch.

Now it’s nearly winter again and the birds are returning to my feeders. I’m looking forward to many more happy hours watching the ever-changing action. Winter is a great time to start your garden wildlife journey too.

Why not have a look at our website for tips on how to give nature a home in your garden.

You can get started watching wildlife with the Big Garden Birdwatch on 25-26th January.  With nearly 600,000 participants, it is the worlds biggest wildlife survey.  For more information and to register visit Who knows what you might see!