Guest blog by Peter Phillips, RSPB Minsmere volunteer guide 

My garden abuts open fields at the back and is edged by a good variety of larger trees, although primarily oak and ash, and a mixture of well established deciduous and evergreen hedges.

I am lucky enough to get a reasonable variety of birds and this year I have already seen returning chiffchaff and a female blackcap drinking at the pond since my isolation started. The feeders are regularly used by goldfinch, great spotted woodpecker, tits - coal, blue, great and long-tailed. A male pheasant I call Geoff, who has a serious limp, is also a daily visitor. The earlier calling tawny owls are now silent and despite my best efforts to see them have managed to avoid my prying eyes this year thus far.

Female blackcap by Clare Carter

The five crows who live atop the Scot's pine at the far end of the garden also come down daily to feed with the woodpigeons, stock doves and chaffinches who all do battle with the numerous magpies. There are six residing dunnocks (all presently chasing each other around the pond with quivering wings), two pairs of feisty robins and three pairs of blackbirds. One male, in particular, spends much of his time excavating the pile of discarded niger seed which the goldfinches constantly hurl onto the ground from the feeder above seemingly oblivious to its cost!

I've been lucky to see visiting otters over the past two years. When you consider that the nearest river is over a mile away it just shows how far they travel. Another unexpected visitor also turned up  last year. I was woken by a shrill squealing at 2 am and on going downstairs and flicking on the outside light discovered a badger had inadvertently fallen into the pond. Having poor eyesight I suspect it did not realise that the duckweed floating across the top was not solid. I am pleased to report that once it had managed to extricate itself, with the help of my rake, it trudged off safe and sound if not somewhat dejectedly down the garden. 

Badger by Christine Hall

Sadly the pond no longer contains fish but there are newts and a good variety of dragonflies, which all hopefully will emerge a little later on, and is used by all and sundry to bathe in - the pig feeder which I have sat on a wooden post is used mainly for drinking; the finches and tits constantly flitting to and fro between it and the feeders.

I took a photograph of the garden at the beginning of my isolation, it looked grey, devoid of flowers and leaves. I wonder what it will look like once Covid-19 departs and life returns to normal. At least, happily, for the wildlife in the garden, it’s business as usual.

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