We often get asked what is the one best thing we can do in our gardens to help attract in birds. What do you think the answer is? My reply to this is usually get a hedge in, or if it's a tiny garden, get at least a couple of shrubs. My logic behind this, well a hedge has got a number of benefits for wildlife, not just birds. Many garden birds, and open country species like yellowhammers too, need shelter for nesting and roosting, a hedge can provide both. Many hedgerow shrubs provide fruit, berries that attract birds as well as nectar rich flowers, great for bees and edible foliage for the caterpillars of moths and butterflies. Hedges also give connectivity, linking up gardens and allowing safe movement, not just for birds but also for creatures like hedgehogs and toads that often shelter at the base.
So all in all a hedge is pretty good thing to have for wildlife. But in recent decades they seem to have been dropped in favour of the instant barrier of a fence. Saying I hate fences is probably a bit strong but I have a mild dislike for them. This has nothing to do with an incident involving a fence and a wheelie bin last week (don't ask!) but they just offer nothing for wildlife, well apart from spiders which may hide in the gaps! A hedge however is bursting with life and is a better long term investment than a fence. A well kept hedge with a few prickly species in it offers a great security feature as well as being less likely to blow over in a gale.
Have I tempted you? If so, get preparing your boundaries for a bit of winter hedge planting! The RSPB have a great deal with Ashridge nurseries so you can get your hedgerow whips now for planting this winter at a decent price whilst also helping out your local wildlife, have a look at the deal and the details here - Ashridge trees bird friendly hedge mix. The hedge pack includes hawthorn, wild damson, wild privet, hazel, dog rose, field maple and cherry plum.
Last weekend it was warm enough to venture out in shorts and t-shirts, what a dramatic change! I've already had to dig around in the back of the wardrobe for some extra layers. I bet the birds that have just moulted into their new feathers are glad of the extra protection they offer from the elements.
Have you heard any high pitched 'peeping' sounds overhead this week, or 'chack-chack' sounds? No? Then keep your ears peeled and your eyes upwards, redwings and fieldfares are here and in good numbers already. Overhead here at the Lodge this morning i've counted well over 150 redwings (as well as the ever present jackdaws, a low flying buzzard and a couple of skylarks!) What migrants have you seen this week? Remember to report them on www.birdtrack.net
With this cold weather you might get an increased demand for your bird food. Keep them going with a mix of seed and maybe start adding some suet or fat based snacks if you have not done so already. If you have some local windfall apples or pears, try and store some in a cool dry place for later in the winter, this will be a welcome addition to the menu when any snow fall or freezing conditions arrive. How did winter sneak up on us!
If you brave the cold this weekend keep an eye out for fungi, it's a fascinating world with a mind boggling number of different species, some of which are huge like this parasol fungus.
You may also notice some huge spiders and webs around, you can get a real idea of just how many spider there are on a fresh dew covered autumn morning! This garden spider was in a prime spot near the garden pond;