• Dancing with the longhorns

    "Dancing with the Longhorns" - sounds like the title of an epic Western movie, doesn't it? But this is a tale from much closer to home and on a more intimate scale.

    You see, as I pottered around my garden one evening this week, my eye chanced on a curious little insect sat motionless on a Garlic Mustard seedpod.

    We’re talking a creature less than a centimetre long, but what struck me was what looked like…

    • 11 Jun 2021
  • A beautiful conversation in the garden

    I was delighted recently to receive this wonderful email from Catherine Djimramadji, and found the story so eloquent and moving that I wanted to share it with you all.

    The photos are mine, but the story is all Catherine's. Enjoy!

    It was, for me, an enormous relief to stumble into wildlife gardening a few years ago. Growing up with the underlying assumption that gardening was essentially a battle against nature, the…

    • 28 May 2021
  • A lady in furs in the flower border

    I bet you've noticed how the recent cool conditions have really suppressed insect activity. Gardens are not yet humming, literally.

    So at least this week I was glad to find this distinctive lady roving around the Thrift blooming in my Seaside Garden.

    She is an Ashy Mining Bee, Andrena cineraria, one of the most distinctive of all our 230 or so species of solitary bee.

    She is about the size of a Honeybee or slightly…

    • 21 May 2021
  • It's time to build, build, build

    It may be the middle of May already (how did that happen?!), but nest-building season is still very much underway in gardens across the country.
    Only this week, some of my House Sparrows have been continuing to take dried grass into their nestboxes.
    However, my eye was drawn to a bird bounding around the margins of the pond with all the boing of a kangaroo – it was a Mistle Thrush.
    Her target was the scattering…
    • 14 May 2021
  • Springing with joy

    Once in a while, I put aside most of the words and just let nature do the talking.

    So, today, a blog that is about no more than the joys of spring in the garden.

    Yes, I know it has been witheringly cold, and we could all do with a bit of warmth for our cockles, but I humbly offer you sunshine, butterflies and spring flowers.

    To start, a Peacock butterfly drinking dew from a daffodil

    I'm a sucker for a tulip or two in…

    • 7 May 2021
  • You'd have a bad hair day if you had three weeks to get the kids from baby to teenager!

    Some wildlife that I have tried to encourage to breed in my garden came within months, weeks, days even.

    But Starlings? There was clearly no history of them being here, no holes suitable for them, nowhere with the short vegetation they need to feed.

    Six years later, and with beautiful Starling nestboxes adorning my house, at last, they've decided to set up home here. And I love them - the little bird of stars, as the…

    • 30 Apr 2021
  • Ding ding! The punches (and feathers) start to fly in the garden boxing match

    It's getting to that time of year when there are just so many things to talk about, so many wildlife stories happening in the garden. Which to choose?!
    Will it be spring butterflies, tadpoles, birdsong? Or just the simple joy of spring.
    But, no, I thought we’d talk about bird behaviour. And in particular I thought we’d investigate the wild slapping sounds that are coming from my trees at the moment – and quite likely…
    • 23 Apr 2021
  • In a cowslip's bell I lie

    The eagle-eyed amongst you will have noticed that I’ve stolen today’s blog title from Shakespeare. Oh, how I doth spoil thee!

    You see, in The Tempest, the fairy Ariel is released from the servitude of Prospero, and delights in his freedom in the simple things of life:

    “Where the bee sucks, there suck I:

    In a cowslip’s bell I lie.”

    In other words, the joy of liberty for Ariel is summed up…

    • 16 Apr 2021
  • Crowning glory

    The loud outpourings of song from my Blackbirds, Blackcaps, Robins and Great Tits dominate my garden soundscape at the moment, but as I pass under the spruce tree, I often hear a very high-pitched and rather feeble little warble. 'Sicily sicily sicily silly-so', it goes.

    It is the song of the King of the Birds, whose scientific name means just that - Regulus regulus. Little King, little king.

    And here it is in…

    • 2 Apr 2021
  • Spreadeagled in the sun

    I rather over-estimated the speed of my recovery from this labyrinthitis, so it has meant yet more time (and still more to come) away from computers, gently recuperating.

    Whenever possible, you'll find me spreadeagled in the sun, gently dozing.

    So I've been pleased to see that it has been much the same for wildlife in my garden, such as this Peacock butterfly on a lying log.

    It turned out to be a very popular…

    • 26 Mar 2021
  • Oh, for the sounds of birds...and butterflies

    Your eyes do not deceive you - nor your ears! Today I am going to talk about the sounds of birds AND butterflies.

    It comes as I (hopefully) recover from a long bout of labyrinthitis, which has laid me low for over a month now. For much of that, I have had very little sense of balance, and have struggled to focus my eyes (hence no recent blogs, and a short 'ease back in' one today).

    As you can imagine, not being…

    • 12 Mar 2021
  • Woodn't it be good! Rustic recycling projects for the garden

    While visiting my mum in our Christmas bubble, I took a walk around her village and was delighted to see this:

    I don't mean the black-and-white thatched cottage, delightful as it is. No, I mean the home-made fence. What a wonderful way to recycle what I assume are old branches from the back garden, or at least from somewhere very local. No importing here of fence panels from some Scandinavian or Latvian forest.

    • 19 Feb 2021
  • Bring on the butterflies!

    I know the country is still in a deep freeze, but all the more reason to leap forward in our minds to imagine the forthcoming spring, summer and autumn filled with sunshine and butterflies. That, plus the prospect of birdsong and blossom, certainly helps me through this Covid marathon.

    Oh, and I’m also on a promise to talk about such things. A couple of weeks ago I talked about how well different groups of creatures…

    • 12 Feb 2021
  • Quick and easy flowers: Seven seeds to sow soon for wildlife (and for you!)

    It looks like many of you might find yourself under a blanket of snow this weekend, but don't be misled - the year is cracking on apace, we're into February already, and that means it is time to start sowing seeds, at least indoors.

    Growing plants from seed can sound like it is something for the 'experts' only, the green-fingered ones. But no, no, and an even more emphatic no! Growing from seed is a miracle open…

    • 5 Feb 2021
  • A Haka in suburbia

    I was taking half an hour out from screen-sitting to do a little bit of digging of my new pond-to-be when all hell broke loose in the garden two doors down. The air filled with a raucous cawing as some Carrion Crows went crazy about something.

    But it wasn't just a handful of them, which is the typical number I see in or from my garden. No, there were dozens of them.

    This photo shows at least 27 (plus a Jackdaw on…

    • 29 Jan 2021
  • The power of the count

    How well is wildlife doing in your garden? Are its populations going up, or down? Are all your efforts bearing fruit?

    Given that I spend so much time promoting all the things that people might like to do to help wildlife in their gardens, it is rather important that I back it up with some hard evidence. I spend hours trying to help wildlife, but does it actually work?

    Well, with the turn of the year, that's another year…

    • 22 Jan 2021
  • The icing on the cake

    There are four big reasons why I leave flower stems and seedheads standing in my flower borders throughout the winter.

    1) There is every chance that they will provide winter seed for birds

    The most familiar example is of Goldfinches feeding on Teasel (above), but just as effective can be Verbena bonariensis, Chicory, lavenders, burdocks, Eryngiums and Rudbeckias.

    2) The second reason is that the architecture of stems…

    • 15 Jan 2021
  • Vital pickings in winter's freezer

    Brrrrrrrrr! It's Thursday afternoon as I write this, the sun has just set, and I've just come in from outside where most of the frost hadn't lifted all day. I swear I've got icicles forming on my appendages.

    The ice on the pond had formed dramatic starbursts today...

    ..while rime attractively picked out all the veins on fallen leaves.

    It's alright for us, diving into our centrally heated houses, but…

    • 8 Jan 2021
  • All About Robins: New Year Quiz

    I hope you and those around you have made it safely into 2021, and that you found creative ways to make this festive period as enjoyable as possible.

    I know many of you will still be in holiday mode right now, so if you are looking for little things to do on these long evenings, I thought I’d offer you one option to fill 15 minutes  or so: a garden wildlife quiz. In fact, I’ve based it entirely around the nation…

    • 1 Jan 2021
  • The best day of the year is coming...

    I get so excited at this time of year knowing that the most exciting day of the year is about to happen. Let's hear it for the 22nd of December - yeah!

    No, it's not my birthday. It's special because it is the day after the shortest day. On 21 December, from sunrise to sunset here in Sussex was 7 hours, 56 minutes and 29 seconds. On the 22nd, I get an extra three seconds. The further north you are, well, you're looking…

    • 17 Dec 2020
  • The Story of Han the Self-murmurating Starling

    The word 'murmuration' seems to have seeped its way into the public's consciousness these days, which is wonderful. It describes the massed aerial manoeuvres of great flocks of Starlings as they arrive at their roost sites.

    I see that the Sun newspaper this week carried a story about a murmuration that formed into the shape of a duck. It's surprisingly convincing (and is at the wonderful RSPB Fairburn…

    • 11 Dec 2020
  • The (garden) times, they are a'changing

    Every day of late, a merry band of Long-tailed Tits has come wending its way through my garden.

    I love how bonded they are, making constant quiet 'tip....tip....tip' calls to stay in contact with each other. It jumps to a more insistent 'si-si-si' if they are feeling a little nervous or can't quite see each other, and rises yet again to a bold, rippling 'sirrut' if they really are getting their knickers in a twist. To…

    • 4 Dec 2020
  • Giving a little back to nature

    You find me in reflective mood. Maybe it is because of the drizzle outside in what has been an unrelentingly grey and gloomy week; maybe it is because we are all coming to terms with the prospect of the revised tier system and the Christmas rules.

    Whatever the reason, I'm counting my blessings. My natural blessings. I feel so incredibly grateful that the wildlife in and around my garden has given me such a wealth of happiness…

    • 27 Nov 2020
  • Journey to the centre of the earth, Part 2

    Before I dive into the main topic of today’s blog, I’ve got a request!

    We’d like your help to improve the RSPB's online information for anyone wanting to make their gardens, balconies and local greenspace better for wildlife.

    It would be in the form of a chat with my lovely colleague Adam Walker or one of his team.

    If you think you could can spare some time, please email adam.walker@rspb.org.uk and…

    • 20 Nov 2020
  • Here are the master oak tree planters, in action

    How many oak trees have you planted this year?

    I've got some friends who have planted 10,000 between them in the last two months.

    Here they are busy in my garden this week, giving me some sensational views through the kitchen window.

    The Eurasian Jay - what a bird! It is surely one of our best-looking of our garden visitors, with its salmon-pink plumage, black moustache and tail, and white rump and wing flash. Oh…

    • 13 Nov 2020