Posts tagged ‘Birds’

May 1, 2013

Wildlife roundup

30 April 2013. Very sorry this is late reaching you, I was convinced I’d sent it out, but I hadn’t. Blame it on the sunshine – it’s gone to my head.

Reading KiwiGav’s blog made me aware of how a list of wildlife can give a really good picture of how Spring is doing, so I thought I’d try a roundup of what I’ve seen in the garden in the last couple of days.

The weather has been really nice – today, particularly, was not just sunny but warm, which was blissful, and has obviously done a lot to bring out the wildlife:

Butterflies: Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell and male Brimstone in the garden. Still no Orange Tip, though did see one in Osmington Mills today – a very hard bit of butterfly watching, over a pub lunch in the Smuggler’s pub garden.

Peacock butterfly on aubretia - he's a rather battered specimen with lots of damage to the edges of his wings

Peacock on aubretia – he’s a rather battered specimen if you look at the edge of his wings.

Other insects. Quite a lot, though I am limited in my identification skills, so I’m not sure how many different species.

Small insect on dandelion

Small bee? wasp? hoverfly? on dandelion

Birds, in descending size: Pheasants (3 regular visitors); Crow (one); Jackdaws (several – they nest in a couple of local chimneys and particularly come down when there’s big chunks of food on the ground; Wood Pigeons (several); Collared Doves (2+); Blackbirds (sadly, I think our pair may have abandoned their nest – I don’t think anything fledged and they’ve stopped looking for multiple worms); Starlings (quite a few, though their noise makes them sound as if they are in greater numbers than they are); Chaffinches (lots); Dunnocks (2); House Sparrows (only a few: there were a lot more in winter); Robins (2); Great Tits (I particularly notice one male, who is very handsome with a solid black waistcoat, but I think there is at least one other) and Blue Tits (several: they come and go so fast, they are difficult to count). Also swallows overhead, with occasional buzzards and even a heron the other day.

Crow at foot of bird feeder. Taken from inside the conservatory, as the bird is very wary.

Crow at foot of bird feeder. Taken from inside the conservatory, as the bird is very wary.

Other: Slow worms (three max so far; we found one dead under the tray we leave down for them: it had lost the end of its tail, which was also under the tray and looked very battered generally); Shrew (one for sure – under one of the slow worm trays – could it have had a go at the slow worm that died? I know they are very fierce, but???); Newts (max of 19 so far – a good way to count is with a torch at night); something that looked like a small Crane fly, laying eggs on some not-quite submerged growth in the pond. And – nearly – next door’s dog, which likes to peer under the gate – you could see its tail was wagging today, from the shadow it cast!

Have you done a list of what you see in your garden? Remember there are all sorts of wildlife organisations needing records, so get on the internet and see where you can help.

PS. Three cheers for the European Union and their two-year ban on neonectonoids; three boos for our anti-Environment Secretary Owen Paterson. Bees have a right to thrive on this planet – and we need them.

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March 15, 2013

Treat your wildlife to some ivy

15 March 2013

I hate to see a wall where well-grown ivy has obviously removed. I appreciate this sometimes cannot be avoided, but if at all possible, please keep your ivy: it is such a good plant for wildlife. The Holly Blue butterfly lays its eggs on ivy, so the caterpillars can feed on the flower buds, and sixteen species of moth are also known to use it as a caterpillar food plant. The flowers then provide nectar for late butterflies – the photo at the foot of this article only shows four Red Admirals, but there were twelve at one point, feeding on a patch of ivy about half the size of a door. Many other insects will also throng round the flowers, and when the sun is out, even if you do not know the ivy flowers are there, you will hear the humming of the insects on it and pick up a deep, honey scent. After flowering, the ivy sets seed, and the resulting black berries are food for hungry birds in late winter – I sometimes become aware of a blackbird or pigeon because the ivy appears to shudder, as the bird pulls the berries from their stems.

Left: Speckled Wood. Centre: Holly Blue. Right: an insect. All on ivy.

Left: Speckled Wood. Centre: Holly Blue. Right: an insect. All on ivy.

That’s not all, either. The tangle of ivy growth also provides a hidey-hole for all sorts of creatures. I have gone outside on warm summer nights and been able to hear the snails moving around in the cover: better they haunt the ivy than my prize plants, though they are probably on their way to do just that. Butterflies may also use it for shelter, and the Brimstone is known to hibernate in ivy. Birds also find it important cover, and will nest in it. We deliberately leave the ivy on our garage to grow very thick, and we may have blackbirds starting to nest in it this year: we’ve seen two dive into the greenery several times recently. Ivy, although everygreen, needs to renew its leaves periodically, so there will be a lot of leaf litter at the foot of the plant, and this can again be good cover: we’ve had a hedgehog make a day nest in the leaves at the foot of our ivy, and we could hear him “snoring” as we walked past – you felt you had to be very quiet!

For the human, ivy serves as an excellent evergreen in the garden – one of the few native evergreens we have. The native ivy is striking enough, with its glossy green leaves, but there are many varieties if you want different colours and leaf shapes – www.fibrex.co.uk is a nursery which has a wonderful collection of ivies to set your imagination going.

I’ve been asked why the ivy on somebody’s wall does not flower. The answer is to do with the stages the plant goes through: while it is in its juvenile stage it only develops soft growth, it flowers when it creates adult, woody, growth, and I presume it cannot do this if you keep chopping it back and forcing it to put on more soft growth. There is concern about the damage ivy can do, but I think you just need to be sensible: you can’t have it blocking your gutters or lifting your roof tiles, but just growing up a solid wall is probably not going to damage the structure.

Four Red Admirals on ivy

Four Red Admirals on ivy

If you can identify the insect at the right of the panel of three, please let me know what it is.