Well, now the Big Garden Birdwatch is over, and we all know what birds and other creatures share our gardens with us, (https://www.rspb.org.uk/birdwatch/ ) let’s look ahead and see what we can do to help them all through spring…. Hopefully you already have plans for putting up bird boxes for when those little blue tits get broody, but there are other creatures which also really need our help in the next few months.
Some of our most common garden butterflies (I’m thinking commas, peacocks, small tortoiseshells, brimstones, even red admirals) get through the winter by hibernating as adult butterflies. When they eventually wake up in the spring, they are desperately in need of sustenance, which takes the form of nectar. However, there is not always much in flower so early. This is where you come in. If you can choose nectar-rich plants which flower nice and early in the spring, you can really help these beautiful creatures. Some ideas for you: primroses, violets, wallflowers, violas, honesty, cowslips and Chionodoxa (also known as Glory of the snow) all flower really early, and will not only help the butterflies, but also queen bumblebees which have slept away the winter, pregnant with next summer’s brood of worker bees.
Those of you who have compost heaps, if you mulch your borders now, you’ll be providing a happy hunting ground for those insect eating birds, like song thrushes, dunnocks, robins and blackbirds. The can often be seen, rummaging around in the fallen leaves and mulch, looking for worms and other morsels at this time of year. In the dead of winter last year, I was lucky enough to spot two song thrushes rustling around in the fallen field maple leaves, looking hopefully for worms… No doubt in my mind that they would not have been there if we’d raked up those leaves in autumn.
So, who’s seen a fieldfare yet this winter? I personally haven’t seen many, probably due to the strong south westerlies keeping them at home in Scandinavia, and also perhaps due to the mildness of the winter so far. (They’re just not that hungry yet) Those of you who have been lucky enough to spot fieldfares, redwings or other thrushes – I bet they were feasting on berries! I’ve seen them on rowan trees, pyracantha (also known as firethorns), cotoneaster of all shapes and sizes, holly, and of course on apples. Such an easy thing to do in your own gardens – plant a tree or shrub which produces berries or fruit.
Speaking of gardens, the Big Garden Birdwatch is set for this coming weekend, 25 and 26 January – I hope you are all poised to record your birds for an hour! If not, take a look here: https://www.rspb.org.uk/birdwatch/ to see how you can help us with Europe’s biggest wildlife survey.
I have been keeping an eye on what the birds are up to in the garden at the moment, and this is what I have to report:
- The blue tits are exploring the dense shrubs, looking for hibernating insects to snaffle
- The goldfinches are flocking to our mammoth teasels, which we’ve staked to keep them high and dry for the birds. The seeds are a great source of winter food.
- The dunnocks are hopping around on the ground, apparently picking up teasel seeds. They always disappear into the dead hedge when they realize they’ve been spotted
- The moorhens are very furtively sneaking in to eat the apples I put out on the bird table for any thrushes that might be around!
- The rabbits are nibbling my wallflowers, but that’s another story….
Why not take some time to see what creatures in your garden are up to? They will often give you clues as to what you can do to help them through these lean months, just watch and learn….
Written by Amber, one of our young volunteers: "I’ve only been living in the area for a short time, so joining the youth rangers seemed like a brilliant chance to meet new people and get involved with wildlife and conservation work. I wasn't wrong. From the first day I knew it was going to be a great and rewarding experience. The Youth Ranger’s work is based at Flatford, which is such a beautiful area, just bursting with wildlife throughout the year. It’s always lovely in the RSPB gardens during lunch as we can watch all the different birds and insects and smell the beautiful plants. We’ve worked in different areas around the lovely Flatford, doing various tasks including building and lighting a bonfire! What has been really beneficial is learning things you wouldn't have learnt in a classroom, such as building a deadwood fence or how each plant benefits different aspects of wildlife in its own way, including those pesky stinging nettles! Another great thing about the Youth Rangers is that everything we do around Flatford benefits everyone; people who visit the mill, people who work there and even the wildlife that lives there. It’s always great to see people walking along a path you have helped clear or using the sign you have installed. I personally feel that the best thing about the youth rangers is the people. Everyone you work with is so passionate about everything they do for the area so you can't help but share their enthusiasm as you work alongside them. Going home from the day always leaves you feeling that it was time very well spent. Knowing you've helped local wildlife and given something back to the community rather than staying at home watching TV always boosts your mood. And so ends the day in the life of a youth ranger. "