Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Spring wildlife in the garden

Stepping into the garden over the weekend I noticed just how much more bird song there was. A flurry from one tree to another and the chirrups of little birds means that Winter is moving on now and Spring is truly on its way.

Our gardens host such a wide variety of nature and our back garden networks provide homes for many of our British wildlife. With the new season on the horizon why not get out into the garden and see what you can find? Over the next few months there will be plenty to see if you step out there and stay awhile. This super interactive image shows the wildlife you may see in an average UK  garden. Whether it is a mammal, bird or tiny bug, all are so interesting to observe and it is a honour that they have made our garden part of their home.
Birds are one of the easiest creatures to spot especially now as they start their nest building activities and are busy flying around gathering twigs and moss. A great activity to do with children is filling bird feeders particularly as the weather is still chilly and little wild food available, our feathered friends need a helping hand ready for raising their broods. Different birds eat different types of foods, for instance robins favour meal worms and finches and blue tits are mainly seed eaters, so it is a good idea to have a range of wild bird food accessible in the garden. Bird seed mixes and suet balls from Vine House Farm are ideal to stock your bird tables with and remember that some bird prefer hanging bird feeders whilst some larger birds use ground feeders. Well protected feeding areas away from predators will soon encourage the birds to your garden and give you plenty of opportunities to watch them during the springtime. Don't forget the fresh water for drinking and bathing too. Frosty nights can ice over water so ensure there is some available in your garden and that it is regularly cleaned out.

In my garden we also like to provide the garden birds with nesting material, anything from short pieces of wool to dog hair and moss. Don't tidy that garden just yet as small twigs and plant material is gathered up by nesting birds.
Blue Tit bird in the garden

As the sun starts to shine many hibernating animals such as hedgehogs start to reawaken and will be looking for food. Make a hedgehog house for them from old plant material, another reason to leave some untidy corners of the garden. Hedgehogs love wood piles that are full of creepy crawlies like slugs that provide a tasty hog meal. Supplement with dog food and a small dish of water, a daily activity for children to be involved in and then look for the signs they've been there the next morning. The log piles are also perfect for a mini beast safari to learn about different beetles and other invertebrates. Take a magnifying glass and look under stones and leaf litter to see what you can find.

If you are lucky enough to have a wildlife pond in the garden, a whole new world will open up to you, from frogs to pond skaters and dragonflies. Early spring is a super time to look for frog spawn and an opportunity to follow the lifecycle of the frog - does this bring back primary school memories? It is still fascinating to me, to watch the tadpoles turn into frogs, one of nature's wondrous events.

Frog lifecycle

As a child I kept a nature diary and would write down the creatures that I saw and the trees and plants in my suburban garden. I have such fond memories of pressing the wild flowers that sprung from the rough edges of the lawn and learning the names of the birds that I watched fluffing their feathers in our old stone bird bath. Every night, a blackbird would sing its evening song on the edge of the cherry tree and it made me love wildlife. A scrapbook or special notebook for a child to log their wildlife adventures would be a cherished momento of the seasons and they really will learn so much along the way. This is certainly something I will be doing with my son.

*Collaborative post with Vine House Farm*
Images Blue Tit bird drinking and Frog Lifecycle from Shutterstock.

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