March, 2013

Homes for Wildlife

Homes for Wildlife
If you love the creatures in your garden, you'll love our Homes for Wildlife project. This is the place to ask and answer questions about making your backyard wildlife-friendly.

Gardening for wildlife

Follow the adventures of Adrian Thomas, our wildlife gardening expert, and be inspired to create your own wildlife haven on your doorstep. Adrian posts here every Monday and Friday without fail, so make it a date and drop by!
  • At least the woodland garden seems to think spring is coming...

    Ok, on a scale of 1 to 10, how fed up are you with the spring so far? I know we Brits like talking about the weather, but we deserve to talk about it when it is like this. I've yet to see a butterfly and only one bumblebee this year. At least many of you I believe have got sunshine today (not here - the leaden grey continues) so maybe you'll have the cheer of a bit of birdsong.

    I like to bring you photos that I've taken very recently, and being a Bank Holiday today you get them minutes after they were taken. Today, in the insectless and birdsong-free world that is my garden this morning, and with the frogspawn and toadspawn sealed under a layer of ice in the pond, at least my 'woodland garden' looked somewhat springlike.

    The Primroses are blooming in profusion...

    and the Wood Spurge Euphorbia amygdaloides var robbiae is looking very fresh.

    Even if insects were about, all that tends to visit the spurge in my garden tends to be ants, but it provides some early ground cover, and the robbiae variety is a fast spreader but easy to control, so I'm happy to include it.

    And then the one good thing about the relentless cold weather is that the flowering bulbs such as the Wild Daffodils just keep going on and on and on, as if in suspended animation

    One senses that when warmer weather arrives, spring is going to go off with a bang, a helter-skelter flurry of activity. But for now we - and wildlife - just wait in tense anticipation...

  • Is this the world record for House Sparrow nestboxes?

    A couple of weeks ago I took a few days off and headed for one of my many favourite boltholes in Britain - North Norfolk.

    I combined a bit of birdwatching at places such as RSPB Titchwell, with a lot of walking, plus some inevitable 'gardening', such as a trip to the famous winter garden at Anglesey Abbey and its grove of Himalayan Birch trees...

    But my favourite gardening moment was in Hunstanton. We had heard barely a single House Sparrow for days, but close to the seafront in amongst dense housing we could hear their cheerful chatter from a tangle of dead Ivy on the side of a house.

    It was immediately clear that the Ivy had been completely hacked off half way up and cleared away from the flintwork - no wonder it was dead!

    But there in the gap underneath the owners had installed a veritable city of nestboxes.

    I presume the Ivy had been Sparrow heaven when it was alive, for they love to nest in the dense web of interwoven stems tucked away behind the evergreen cover of Ivy leaves.

    And I'm sure the homeowner had every good reason to want to contain the Ivy, and I don't castigate them for that. But full marks to whoever took the time and effort to try and replace what had been lost. I didn't see if the nestboxes were being used, but I don't see why they shouldn't be.

    So many things we do in life have an impact on wildlife; trying to put back what we have taken away, and going that extra mile in doing so, seems well worth applauding.

  • How will frogspawn fare in the cold?

    So we had half an inch of snow down here in Sussex and the roads became impassable, so a day working from home meant a chance at lunchtime to go and see how the garden was faring.

    My Crocus tommasinianus, which are planted in part for early spring colour and in part because they are fairly well liked by some early pollinators, were certainly not open for business, although they did look rather fetching against the dazzling white. They're really easy to grow, cheap to buy, and naturalise and spread well, so I'd certainly recommend them, but plant them where they will get sun and hence open up wide to invite insects.

    In the woodland garden,the 'Wild' Daffodils were looking very chilly indeed. Daffodils don't rank highly when it comes to wildlife, usually hosting just some pollen beetles, but even these were nowhere to be seen yet.

    But the thing I really wanted to check on was the pond, where the Frogs laid their first spawn last Saturday night, again doing so synchronously with those in a friend's pond half a mile away. Last weekend it was like a jacuzzi in there as male Frogs thrashed about at any sniff of a female like water polo layers sprinting after the ball.

    Well, winter's lid had firmly closed over the top of the spawn, which is always laid in the warm shallows at the right hand end of the pond. But I'm not worried - Frogs in Britain have had to cope with frosts since the year dot, and although I might lose some of the spawn, I'm confident that plenty of it will be fine.