Monday, March 12, 2012

Spring has sprung, the grass is ris. I wonder where the birdies is?

With a little work they could be encouraged to your garden.

With the glorious sunshine this weekend we have been getting outside and making plans for our back garden at Glandford. We are fortunate in having a half acre field as a back garden, but you can still do a lot for the wildlife with a much smaller plot.

Out the back.
The best place to start is assessing what you already have. Here there is an open area of rough grass with a ragged hawthorn hedge at one end and along the boundary with the seed crop field mentioned in the Glandford Finch Invasion blog post a few weeks ago. There is a short section of soil bank topped with a few bushes and two small willow trees. The far north end is a patch of low hawthorn and bramble scrub and there are a few old railway sleepers in a heap.

Barren Srawberry
(Potentilla sterilis)
Common field speedwell
(Veronica persica)
Looking in a bit more detail there are a few wild flowers already coming through including common field speedwell (Veronica persica), barren strawberry (Potentilla sterilis), colt's-foot (Tussilago farfara) and some other interesting looking stuff coming up that is too small for me to commit myself to positively identifying yet! Not a bad start really, but lots more to be done.

(Tussilago farfara)
First of all the pond. Water in the garden is always a big draw, especially if it varies in depth and has muddy, stony and sandy edges. As well as the plants, invertebrates and hopefully amphibians, a pond should help the birds too, providing a drink and a place for a wash and brush up. Even a very small area of water can get a surprising variety of species if it does not dry out in the summer.
The site for the pond.
Our area designated to be the pond should be big enough to get a good variety of plants established and attract dragonflies and have a good diversity of nooks and crannies in the water and around the edge for other invertebrates.

Although we have a good number of fruit-baring bushes with the hawthorn, a bit more choice is always desirable. Cherry and elder trees provide a good sugar-rich feast in the summer and apples, especially late fruiting varieties, are popular with thrushes in the autumn. For the insect-eating birds flowering and evergreen shrubs are a good idea as well as log piles and areas of bare soil. Attracting incests is good for the birds, but they are also fascinating in themselves. One of the best ways to observe the more flighty insects like butterflies, moths and dragonflies is with a close-focusing binocular. A lot of modern 8x32 binoculars focus down to less than 2m (6'6''), but the best are the Pentax Papilio 6.5x21 and 8.5x21 both with a minimum focusing distance of 50cm (1'8''). Not only are these bins good for seeing fine detail on a butterflies wings for example, they can also be quite handy for inspecting the contents of a pond without getting wet!  Our plant shopping list includes lavender for moths and bees, a buddleia bush or two, a guelder rose and maybe a rowan tree (mountain ash).

The old wood burner.
One of the best ways to make a garden a haven for wildlife is to be untidy.   If you have the space to let a part of your garden run wild, long grass, brambles, old flower pots and log piles provide hiding, nesting and foraging places for insects, slugs and snails, small mammals, reptiles and amphibians and birds. The old wood burning stove from our old shop has got a new lease of life in the long grass where we hope in time a robin or wren may decide to nest.
With the addition of a pile of big stones, some decoratively arranged railway sleepers and few nest boxes we'll be sorted for the spring.

Lots more to do, but that should keep us busy for now. We'll keep you up dated.

Cley Spy

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