Please excuse my wimpishness, but given the driving wind and lashing
rain I failed to venture into the garden this weekend, bar to clear the
leaves from the pond (the Flowering Cherry is moulting madly) and to
top up the bird feeders.On the subject of bird feeding, I’m
passionate about trying to let the garden provide as much as possible
by growing plants that harbour insects and produce seeds and berries,
but that doesn’t stop me doing a fair bit of supplementary feeding.
Without my seed and peanut feeders, the number of visits that birds
make to my garden would be only a fraction of what they are, despite
all my efforts to actually grow their supper. I liken the feeders to
dangling, magic seedpods – birds must marvel at how they replenish
themselves.The good folk at The Lodge must have sensed that I’d
be a frustrated couped-up bunny this weekend, and so sent me through
some online RSPB links for indoors birdfood activities. If you’ve got to keep the kids or grandkids occupied, you might like to try these family activities: to create a bird feeder, or to make a bird cake
(and no, that’s not a cake with a bird in it, cheeky!). These photos
show children at some of our recent Feed the Birds Day events getting stuck in, making bird cake, making wooden seeds feeders that can be hung on a wall, and making hanging bird feeders out of wire and logs.
If you’re wanting something to do more cordon bleu, here are some recipes bird-friendly celebrity chefs have suggested.
And if you just want some information on the best foods to use, then check out this RSPB guide.
The RSPB is actually just embarking on some new field trials to further our knowledge on what supplmentary foods birds like best. I’m one of their volunteers testing out the products in my garden. Sadly all volunteer places are taken, but I’ll keep you updated on how I get on, as daily I measure consumption rates at my seed feeders and weigh my fatballs!
I recently took delivery of some various sized logs to keep me warm this winter. Some are so big; two people can barely lift them. Fired with inspiration from your Forum posts helped me take a critical look at what, from this consignment, I can share with wildlife before I cut and split them. By now I guess you all know, where possible, I like to share my comforts with wildlife and this frequently includes my firewood. This is just one example – I will share some of the others over the coming weeks – if only to inspire those of you using firewood to do the same! I selected two very large butts of ash to transport to the end of the garden to create some standing deadwood in my planed copse area. I just need to accost an unsuspecting neighbour to help me get this one down the end of the garden!! There’s also a whole load of alder poles and straight away I visualised a vertical screen just adjacent to my wood shed. I can create a gentle curve with them where the dark outline is in the picture below and plant some nectar rich plants at their base. The screen will give me extra privacy in summer when lying by my pond watching all the wildlife in and around it.
Some of the other smaller pieces were sufficiently twisted and knarled to lend themselves to placing randomly on my yet to be planted drought garden.
Here for your Friday delectation I’d like to introduce you to the amazing new garden at our amazing new nature reserve near Middlesborough. I’ve been able to visit it twice during its creation, but best if I hand over to Dave Braithwaite to tell the story cos it's his garden (but they’re my pictures I'll have you know. Adrian ;-) At Saltholme, we wanted to create a garden that offered our visitors quiet contemplation, a wildlife experience in its own right and that demonstrated the natural succession that plant communities go through. If that wasn`t enough, we also wanted a garden that was rather more designerly than what immediately comes to mind when someone tells you they have a "wildlife garden". A garden that offered wildlife opportunities whilst still looking the part in the suburbs; something that had broader appeal to the average gardener. Given these challenges we thought that it would be a good idea to call in an expert: no other than the celebrity gardener Chris Beardshaw. He designed a fabulous garden that is partially walled with planed and vertically installed railway sleepers. Gabions lead to a bleached larch pergola with seating (right) that gives a view back across the garden space.
At the heart of the garden there is a large pond (left), which is the start of an ecological journey through time. For me the greatest inspiration is the small stumpery: dead trees (a by-product of the local forestry industry) planted upside down with their roots pointing skyward. They provide drama and sculptural intrigue. But more than this, the inverted root boles fill up with rainwater, micro habitats that are home to specialist communities of microbes and invertebrates. The garden really works and is a credit to Chris`s design skills. Equally it is credit to the tenacity of the staff who built the garden throughout last winter ... a wet and bleak experience it was too. But the team stuck to the task and we had the beginnings of a fabulous garden in place for the visit by Kate Humble who formally opened the reserve on 6th March. The garden is still embryonic and we are lucky to have a team of volunteers who look after it and will give it the TLC it needs as it grows to maturity. Dave BraithwaiteSaltholme Site Manager
Want to see the garden? Check out how to visit here.
As you may have gathered by now, I like to base my gardening for wildlife on observation: there’s nothing I like more than a good old nosey around a garden seeking out which creature is using which plant. And so on Saturday I pootled along to a National Trust garden in Sussex called Nymans to indulge my curiosity.The sun was shining, the wind was light, so it was a pleasure to see several butterflies still on the wing (Painted Ladies, Red Admirals and a Peacock). Their nectar source of choice was several types of winter heather, cultivars of both Erica carnea and Erica x darleyensis. The great thing about both is that they can grow on neutral and limey soils as well as acid.Also doing well was a Mahonia, its flowers in full flame attracting bumblebees, Honey Bees, hoverflies, flies and a Red Admiral.But the plant that fascinated me most was a straggly, unimposing Magnolia tree about 20 foot high. It was in fruit, its rather exotic ‘seed heads’ bursting with the red, bead-like ‘berries’. Birds couldn’t keep away – there were several Starlings plus a Blackbird, Song Thrush, 4 Blue Tits (right), Coal Tit and Great Tit, more birds than I saw in the rest of the garden combined. It reminded me of the David Attenborough documentaries from the rainforest, where monkeys and toucans seek out favoured trees as their fruits come into season, an ever-changing menu for them to learn and seek out. Here at Nymans, this Magnolia was clearly the café of choice this weekend!
Welcome to anyone who is here having seen the blog in the RSPB Homes for Wildlife e-newsletter – good to have you! It’s early days, but we’re already beginning to develop a lovely crowd of visitors. What I really want is to get your feedback, questions and suggestions – don’t hold back on me now :-)I thought today I’d do a little update on some of the blogs so far. Remember the question of what berries are being eaten by what birds out there? Here is a photo (right) I took of a House Sparrows in mid-October, gorging itself on blackberries, its bill stained with the tell-tale evidence.
And on the left a Starling on Cordyline australis berries this weekend, and a pile of its mates getting over-excited. Any more observations of birds and berries yet, folks?Returning to the subject of leaves in ponds, I’m sure many of you use netting to stop the leaves ever reaching the water, whereas I choose to go fishing them out daily. What I find I have to do is to check each leaf for pond snails – clearly they are grazing on something rather tasty there.And as for my sink pond, my latest delight is watching the dozens of Gammarus freshwater shrimps, gliding on their sides along the white ceramic walls – they’re far more visible and watchable here than I’ve ever found them to be in a dark-linered pond. So it’s still a wildlife thumbs up for the sink pond. Coming up on the blog in the next few weeks, plans for the flower garden for 2010, and some real gardens from real people! Hope you'll drop in to have a look.