I hope everyone is keeping safe.
In these strange and changing times, it's important for many of us to retain our daily contact with nature, even though we can no longer get out and visit our favourite nature reserves. If you are lucky enough to have a garden, then the wildlife will readily come to you, as I have discovered this weekend. Spending more time at home means more time to sit and watch the garden, and yesterday we were surprised to spot a grey squirrel sitting brazenly on the seed tray, helping himself to mealworms! Whilst not a rare sight for many people, it's not a species we see all that often, and he clearly wasn't put off by the hailstones falling around him - welcome to the first day of British Summer Time!
Hot on the heals of the squirrel, this morning we were joined by a pair of house sparrows. Again, this is a scarce species in our garden, although a pair became regular visitors last spring, so I'm hoping that these, too, will make our garden part of their daily routine. I've always had a soft spot for the cheeky spuggie and hope, one day that they will establish a colony in and around our garden.
Female house sparrow
In fact, my garden bird list this morning has been quite varied, as it has included two greylag geese flying noisily over, singing song thrush and skylark nearby, and a great spotted woodpecker drumming in the woods behind us, as well as the more typical robin, blue tits, starlings, blackbirds, goldfinches, woodpigeons and collared doves. Our local walks over the weekend have also produced sightings of long-tailed tits, buzzards and dunnocks around the town, with mute swans, greylag and Canada geese and oystercatchers over the nearby marshes.
Another exciting discovery in our garden this morning was our first common frog of the spring in our tiny garden pond. Up to three frogs have been regular visitors in recent summers, but this is the earliest that we've seen one in the pond. Perhaps one day we'll also find some frogspawn.
The colder weather over the weekend has been less conducive to spotting insects than last week, but despite that I've seen several buff-tailed bumblebees out searching for nectar. I'm still looking for my favourite insects, although many have been seen around the country, so it's hopefully only a matter of time before I find a dark-edged beefly. I'm certainly going to be checking any patches of ground ivy carefully, as this is a favoured flower for them to look for nectar.
There's a greater variety of flowers along the road verges and hedgerows to provide nectar for these earlier insects: lesser celandine, daisy, dandelion, alexanders, red and white dead-netltes, blackthorn and cherry, for example. I also spotted a beautiful clump of marsh-marigold on the marshes, and it's good to see these vivid yellow flowers emerging around our pond, too.
All of this amazing wildlife has been seen within a mile or two of home, without the need to take the car, and most of these species should be present in bigger cities, too.
I've also heard from our Senior Site Manager, who lives at Minsmere, that the wildlife on the reserve is doing well, with gull numbers continuing to increase, marsh harriers sky-dancing above the reeds, bitterns booming and adders basking. The first swallows and sand martins have been seen, so keep an eye out for these aerial insectivores in the airspace around you in the next few weeks. More surprisingly, a white-tailed eagle flew over a few days ago, so if you live around the East Anglian coast it's worth keeping your eyes open for this enormous raptor - that would be a great addition to any garden bird list.
We'd love to hear from you with news of wildlife sightings in and around your gardens too. Please share your photos here or on Facebook and Twitter - you'll also find more great tips on what to look out for, and ideas for keeping the kids occupied.
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