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July 2018

Tuesday, 31 July 2018

How to attract more wildlife to your garden

How to attract more wildlife to your garden

I'm one of those people who have a very active dream life, and for the most part it is all rather pleasant, or even at times like an action movie.

One of the dreams that I really look forward to is where I find out that I can fly. It doesn't happen very often, but when it does, I'm off! My flying action in dreams is rather like that of the Snowman - I just kind of zoom with my arms stretched out without having to flap them at all. It is so exciting!

Which is where in real life I have so much envy for all those creatures that can truly fly. And right now, the garden is full of them. Birds, yes. Plus bees, butterflies, dragonflies, damselflies, flies...

Even the Thick-kneed Flower Beetles are quite happy to launch into the air to find the next flower. Here's the male, living up to his name, for it is only he that has these 'big guns'. This is very common in the south but more coastal in the north.

Then, at dusk, the bats arrive to swoop over the pond, and during the last month the male Stag Beetles have been drifting backwards and forwards through the air, sniffing out the females.

Of course, night-time is when most of the garden moths emerge, and it is also when lacewings, caddisflies, water beetles and even backswimmers tend to be in the air, as shown up by the more unexpected guests in the moth trap.

So it seems almost everything in the garden can fly. Of course, it is flight that allows many of them to cover vast distances and colonise 'islands', and when I say 'island', that includes islands of wildlife-friendly habitat in gardens among the seas of concrete and tarmac.

It continues to astonish me that in gardens you can find insects that have migrated from hundreds of miles to the south, such as Painted Lady butterflies, Marmalade Hoverflies (below) and Migrant Hawker dragonflies.

So what can you do to make your garden welcoming for these sky travellers, so that they look down and spot a welcoming wildlife airport?

Of course the basics of wildlife gardening come into play. They're looking for lots of plants and water; they want a mass of green and blue, not grey.

But one thing to think about it that many flying creatures like to get out of the wind. Many are so small and delicate that manoeuvring in a breeze becomes difficult, so sheltered glades within which there are pools of calm, sun-baked air is where they will congregate. A butterfly will find it far easier to navigate onto a flower head that is still than one that is lashing around.

You only have to look at where bats hunt on a breezy evening to see that they head for the lea of trees, which is where the flying insects are.

So aim to create oases of tranquillity in your garden using arcs of shrubs, trees, pergolas and hedges. Put your prize wildlife-friendly flower border there, and you will then reap the benefits as the wild aviators come piling in.

Taken from RSPB Community by Adrian Thomas