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Posts Tagged ‘wildlife gardening’

A 'Christmas' Robin

As I sit writing this blog I can see a Robin in the garden perched by the bird feeders, we do not get many Robins in the garden, they tend to appear when the weather turns colder and there is less natural food available, on the allotment though they are about throughout the year often watching and waiting for insects and grubs that have been disturbed whilst digging and sitting on the handle of my spade when my back is turned.

The Robin has long been associated with the festive season, this could be because we see them more in Winter but it may also be because the Robin, also known as the ‘Robin Redbreast’, gave its name to the first postmen who wore red jackets and became known as ‘Robins’, some suggest this is the reason why Robins appear on Christmas cards.

Robins sing all year round, they are one of the few birds that can be heard singing during winter, both the males and females maintain territories for feeding during this period, these may be later become their breeding territories.  Robins can be quite tame during the colder months and with a lot of patience they may eat out of your hand, but despite their cute appearance they are quite aggressive with intruders who enter their territory. Around Christmas-time they begin looking for a mate, by mid-January they will have paired up and the females then stop singing. Male and female birds look identical, young Robins are spotted with golden brown they do not have a red breast until they are 2/3 months old, Robins eat insects, worms, seeds and fruits and are very partial to mealworms.

Open Fronted Teapot Bird Nester and Nest Box

Robins are well known for nesting in unusually places including sheds, greenhouses, plant pots, hanging baskets, under car bonnets and in farm machinery, to encourage Robins to breed in your garden put up an Open Fronted Robin Nest Box or a Teapot Bird Nester, they can be sensitive to disturbance whilst nest building and laying so it is best to stay away at this time, they will lay a clutch of 4-6 eggs, which once incubated by the female will hatch in 13 days, both parents feed and care for the chicks that then fledge at 14 days old even though they are still unable to fly for another couple of days, the parents will look after the chicks for another 3 weeks, Robins normally have two broods a year.

This year for the first time the people of Britain were asked to vote for Britain’s National Bird, it may come as no surprise that the winning bird was the Robin; in total more than 224,000 people cast their votes, the Robin came out top with 75,623 votes, followed in second place by the Barn Owl with 26,191 votes and the Blackbird in third place with 25,369 votes.

This Christmas why not give someone a gift of a Nest Box for the Robins in their garden?

Gill

P.S. Don’t miss out on our two free competitions on the Gardening With Children website in the School Zone and the Family Zone, for a chance to win some bird feeders for your garden, the closing date for both competitions is Thursday 31st December 2015.

 

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Snail

On the whole this year it has been dry but the recent wet weather combined with mild temperatures has brought out all the slugs and snails (big and small, young and old) in the garden and on the allotment and which no doubt will take advantage of any remaining flowers and crops.

When we moved into our house twenty years ago the garden was a wilderness, you could not really call it a garden and the populations of slugs and snails that it contained was unbelievable, I couldn’t kill them as I believe that every creature has a place and a purpose on this earth, but as a keen gardener I knew that they just had to go somewhere else and that was in the surrounding fields, after dark when they emerged I collected them in a carrier bag and moved them to their new home the following day. I am sure that a lot of people must have thought I was mad but it did the trick and since we put a pond in the back garden and the frogs moved in they are now at a manageable level.

If slugs and snails are a problem in your garden and you want to stop them from eating your plants here are some environmentally friendly ideas and products that can help:

The Urban Bird Feeder

Birds   Attract birds into your garden with bird feederswater dishes and nest boxes, they will in return eat many garden pests including slugs, snails, caterpillars, aphids, ants etc.

HEDGEHOG

Hedgehogs    Encourage Hedgehogs to visit and make their home in your garden with a Hedgehog House placed in a quiet corner along with some Hedgehog food, ensure that they can come in and out of your garden by making some small openings in your fence.

Frogs & spawn

Build a pond    A pond is a magnet for all types of wildlife especially frogs and toads which eat slugs and snails.

Slug Gone   Place a layer of Slug Gone Organic Wool Pellets around your plants, made from the dagging fleece of the sheep, the wool fibres as well as the sand, grit and potassium salts that it contains irritate the foot of the slug/snail forcing them to feed elsewhere.

Slug & Snail Trap - Pack of 2

Slug and Snail traps   Bury the pots near to vulnerable plants and fill with beer or sugar water, the slugs and snails will come for a drink and fall in the pot.

Nemaslug Slug Killer

Nemaslug Slug Killer   A natural control containing nematodes that are found naturally in the soil, simply mix with water and apply every 6 weeks around your plants or on areas that are affected.

Copper Slug & Snail Tape

Copper Slug and Snail Tape    Ideal if you garden in containers, placed around the tops of pots, planters and raised beds the copper tape gives off a tiny electrical charge which deters them from crossing the tape.

…. or as a last resort you could always move them in a carrier bag!!

I quite like snails they are quirky looking, do you remember Brian the Snail on Magic Roundabout?

Love your environment

Gill

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Summer is here and there is nothing better than being outdoors and exploring.

Why not have a go at our new competition in the Family Zone for a chance to win some great wildlife products – all you need to do is to go on a Bug Hunt, this could be in your garden, a friends garden, on your allotment, on a day out or even on holiday.

There are thousands of different species of Insects, but being small and quite elusive they often go unnoticed in our day-to-day life, why not go and explore to see what is living on your doorstep.

Fritillary Butterfly

Fritillary Butterfly

What to take

An Insect Guide or Book, Camera, Magnifying Glass, Note Pad, Pencil.

Where to look

Have a look under stones, rocks, plant pots, logs, rotting wood, in compost heaps and long grass, on the underside of leaves, on flower heads, in leaf litter.

Bugs or Insects you may find

  • Dragonflies and Damselflies
  • Ladybirds
  • Grasshoppers/Crickets
  • Beetles
  • Butterflies
  • Hoverflies
  • Aphids/Greenfly
  • Moths
  • Lacewings
  • Ants
  • Wasps
  • Bees
  • Earwigs
  • Flies

Make a list of the Bugs and Insects that you find, you may want to take a photograph or draw a picture of them.

Write down which bug or insect was your favourite and why?

What you can win

A Ladybird Tower

 ladybird_house_m-01[1]

And a Butterfy Bee Nectar Feeding Station

butterfly_feeder_m[1]

How to enter

Simply tell us which bug or insect was your favourite and why?

Fill in your answers on the entry form (click here) with your details and send in to gill@gardeningwithchildren.co.uk or by post to Gardening with Children Family Competition, Unit 1, Bee Mill, Ribchester, Preston PR3 3XJ by the closing date of Monday 31st August 2015.

This is a great way to get children (and adults) outdoors and interested in their environment, and it is something that everyone can do whatever their age.

Happy hunting and good luck!

Gill

 

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Small Tortoiseshell

They say that counting sheep is relaxing and helps you to go to sleep, why not do something which is equally as relaxing that is also fun, educational and very important – why not count butterflies?

This year ‘The Big Butterfly Count’ runs from 17th July – 9th August and the organisers Butterfly Conservation are asking as many people as possible to get involved and count butterflies and moths for 15 minutes during bright (preferably sunny) weather, good places to count are in gardens, meadows, parks and woods.

If you are counting from a fixed position in your garden, count the maximum number of each species that you can see at a single time. For example, if you see three Red Admirals together on a buddleia bush then record it as 3, but if you only see one at a time then record it as 1 (even if you saw one on several occasions) – this is so that you don’t count the same butterfly more than once . If you are doing your count on a walk, then simply total up the number of each butterfly species that you see during the 15 minutes.

To make things easier you can download a handy identification chart from their website to help you work out which butterflies you have seen.

Elephant Hawk Moth

Elephant Hawk Moth

The ‘Big Butterfly Count’ is a nationwide survey aimed at assessing the health of our environment. It was launched in 2010 and has rapidly become the world’s biggest survey of butterflies. Over 44,000 people took part in 2014, counting almost 560,000 individual butterflies and day-flying moths across the UK.

Butterflies react very quickly to change in their environment which makes them excellent biodiversity indicators. Butterfly declines are an early warning for other wildlife losses. The count also assists in identifying trends in species, this will help to plan how to protect butterflies from extinction, as well as understand the effect of climate change on wildlife.

You can submit separate records for different dates at the same place, and for different places. Your count is useful even if you do not see any butterflies or moths.

Once you have done your count submit your records online before the end of August.

There is a great results map showing sightings that have already been submitted, you can see which butterflies and moths other people have spotted near you and across the UK, it is fascinating.

Have a look on their website there is lots of information and wonderful pictures of butterflies and moths which you may spot during your count as well as great ideas to get more people involved such as a Barbecue for Butterflies, Picnic in the Park, Butterfly play date, Butterfly Tea Party, it is a great activity for groups such as the Brownies/Cubs etc. Summer Schools, Child Minders, the W.I., Walking Clubs, Gardening Clubs etc.

So get out there on the next sunny day and look for Butterflies and Moths.

Red Admiral Butterfly

If you want to attract butterflies into your garden you will need to provide nectar rich flowers throughout the butterfly season, as well as food plants for the butterfly caterpillars to eat, click here for advice on which nectar rich plants to grow in Spring, Summer and Autumn and tips on gardening for butterflies.
Love your environment
Gill

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This week it has been glorious with long, dry days of warm sunshine, perfect weather for gardening and getting outdoors and also for Butterflies too, on my allotment I saw quite a few including Small Tortoiseshells, Peacocks, Small Whites and my first Orange Tip, they are all stunning to look at, when they eventually settle to feed on the spring flowers.

In Britain there are 59 species of butterfly that breed here plus up to 30 other species that come here as occasional or regular migrants from elsewhere in Europe, but all is not well for these beautiful fragile creatures, according to a report published in 2011 by Butterfly Conservation three-quarters of UK butterflies showed a 10-year decrease in either their distribution or population levels with numbers of ‘garden’ butterflies dropping by 24%.

DSC03741

Loss of habitat including food plants for caterpillars and butterflies can have a devastating effect, in Spring many species emerge from hibernation and are hungry for nectar and pollen, by growing Spring flowering plants in the garden we can really give them a boost early on in the year, favourite Butterfly plants include Aubretia, Arabis, Forget-me-nots, Polyanthus, Primroses, Sweet Violet, Wallflowers and of course Spring bulbs. Wildflower seeds can be sown now to provide food in the Summer/Autumn they will also benefit Bees and other pollinating insects, there are many different ‘mixes’ available, they need very little looking after but look stunning.

 Short Mix

If you are really keen to do more to help Butterflies and Moths why not consider joining Butterfly Conservation, if you join before 31st May 2015 you can get your first year’s membership for half price, members receive a Gardening for Butterflies and Moths Booklet, colourful identification charts, Butterfly magazines, e-newsletters and more, have a look at their website for full details.

If you have seen an early sighting of a Butterfly you can register it on the Butterfly Conservation website, many of the early Butterflies have already been spotted but there are many more species yet to find, have a look at the list for the species that still haven’t been seen yet this year and keep your eyes peeled.

Which reminds me I must report my Orange Tip Butterfly sighting on the BIG Spring Watch website, they are also asking you to register your first sightings of a Swallow (which are returning from Africa), an Oak Leaf and a Seven Spot Ladybird all the sightings will be studied and used to help save and conserve our wildlife and provide a picture of how it’s doing.

So get out this weekend and get spotting!

Gill

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In life there are few certainties and many uncertainties; the British weather has got to be one of the biggest uncertainties, in Britain we have a very varied and changeable climate not just north to south but regional as well which makes it very hard for our weathermen to forecast, even with new technology. The weather affects everything not just your holiday or BBQ, it also has a huge impact on plants, birds, wildlife and even the seasons too, although Spring comes at the same time each year, it can in fact be early brought on by mild temperatures or late if we have prolonged cold spell with freezing temperatures.

Early Small Tortoiseshell

Unseasonal mild weather can bring creatures out of hibernation early, yesterday there was a Small Tortoiseshell Butterfly fluttering against the upstairs windows if we had let it out it wouldn’t have survived, it is too cold and there are hardly any flowers about so it would have had no food, as well as being an easy meal for a hungry bird. Thomas managed to catch it in his butterfly net and place it safely in his pop up Butterfly House which he then put in a dark cupboard, it has now gone back to sleep, we shall keep checking on it.

10 Fat Ball Feeding Ring

As I write this there are twelve starlings picking food off the lawn and pushing their beaks into the soft ground trying to find tasty worms or grubs, with half a dozen House Sparrows busy on the Seed Feeders, which are filled with high energy sunflower hearts although they are slightly more expensive than bird seed I find there is little mess or waste, the fat ball feeders are very popular with all the birds and need refilling the most often. The weathermen are predicting another cold snap this week from Wednesday onwards which they say will last well into next week I will be replenishing my stock of bird food to keep the feeders topped up.

We get a lot of Starlings and House Sparrows in our garden (both of which are in decline this has become apparent from the results of The Big Garden Birdwatches over the last 36 years) we also get the odd Blackbird, Wren, Robin and amazingly Goldcrest yet we have very few Blue, Great or Coal Tits, recently we have had regular visits from a family of Log-tailed Tits they are a delight to watch and are my favourite bird, we did the Big Garden Birdwatch at home yesterday (Sunday) we were down on species and numbers compared to last year I think this was partly due to the weather, it was definitely milder than previous days which could possibly mean that the birds were searching and finding food in the fields and hedgerows, I am sure the heavy drizzle didn’t help either.

Here is my ‘forecast’ for the week ahead:

  1. Turning colder
  2. Send in the results of The Big Garden Birdwatch
  3. Buy more Bird Food
  4. Keep the Bird Feeders topped up
  5. Stay warm inside and enjoy watching the birds in your garden

Love your environment – whatever the weather

Gill

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We had a brilliant response to our October November Competitions, unfortunately there can only be one winner for each Zone, the lucky winners are:

In the Family Zone

John Stowe, Hampshire

In the School Zone

Fulbrook Middle School, Bedfordshire

both winners will receive:

Hogitat Hedgehog Home

The Hogitat Hedgehog House

A perfect winter retreat for your prickly garden friends

guide to Hedgehogs

Field Guide to Hedgehogs

and a pack of Hedgehog Food

Hedgehog Food

Well done to both of you and I hope that you soon have a Hedgehog making its home in your Hogitat

Look out for our next competitions in the New Year

Gill

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