• 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
  • Warning! This blog is going to get a little bit dirty

    I’ve done over 500 wildlife-friendly gardening blogs in the last 10 years, but in all that time I have never once blogged about the thing that underpins it all: soil.

    What an omission! This ‘dark matter’ is that essential ingredient that allows plants and fungi to grow in it and on it, it is where most of the decomposition happens, and all of this in turn supports the web of life above.

    And yet the layer…

    • 6 Nov 2020
  • What's this burst of upland colour in the garden?

    My next door neighbour always has a wildlife query when we have our little chats over the fence, and this week he had seen something he'd never seen before.

    "It had a long tail and was scurrying all over my patio. Would I be right in calling it a Long-tailed Tit? Is there such a thing?"

    I pushed for a little more detail. Yes, it was on the ground, and it had a yellow undercarriage.

    The penny dropped. "Ahh…

    • 30 Oct 2020
  • Summer's swansong

    Here is comes, the clocks going back (at 2am this Sunday), and with it the realisation that summer has truly been left far behind.

    But I like to cling to its coat-tails for as long as possible, and there are certain garden creatures that help me do that.

    It is possible that next week, given some still, sunny days and a bit of warmth coming through that a final Speckled Wood butterfly will put in a final appearance. Here…

    • 23 Oct 2020
  • Now here's a tasty little creation!

    I love sharing with you all the things I’ve been doing in my garden to help wildlife. But I equally love showcasing the activities of others who have been inspired to make changes.

    So, today, you get to see a new garden pond that has appeared in the Midlands.

    I say it has appeared. It actually took a minidigger being operated by a novice minidiggerer (if such a noun exists) to dig out the 6 x 7 metres (20 x 23 feet…

    • 16 Oct 2020
  • Collecting gold dust

    Of all the tools I use in wildlife-friendly gardening, one of the most indispensible is a pack of little brown envelopes.

    I always have some in the right-hand back pocket of my jeans, some in my camera bag, and some in the glove drawer in my car (how quaint, the idea that I should keep my gloves in there! Emergency chocolate bars and brown envelopes is all you'll find there, I'm afraid).

    It is by means of the…

    • 9 Oct 2020
  • Eye to eye with a wandering whopper

    At this time of year, there seem SO many stories to tell about our wonderful garden wildlife, I'm spoilt for choice.

    This week, for example, do I talk about the many birds including Siskins, Skylarks and Meadow Pipits migrating over many of our gardens right now? Or the Common Darter dragonflies flying about, males and females joined together in daisy-chain formation, even as they dip down to lay eggs at the surface…

    • 2 Oct 2020
  • Garden birds: international travellers or staycationers?

    There’s a point coming up very soon when, should you step outside on a clear night, you are very likely to hear the soft but insistent tseee calls of migrating Redwings as they pass overhead.

    Later in the winter if conditions turn harsh, you are then likely to see some venture into gardens looking for berries and windfalls. And given that barely a handful of redwings breed in the UK up in the wilds of Scotland,…

    • 25 Sep 2020
  • Get your tongue around this!

    Ok, are you ready for an identification challenge? For five points, what's this, which I photographed hopping about on my lawn this week?

    It's a curious looking thing, with its pale green smock and trousers with a bit of polka-dotting thrown in.

    Congratulations if you said it's a Green Woodpecker, and here it is a couple of seconds later showing us that incredible dagger beak and characterful eye.

    Well…

    • 18 Sep 2020
  • A garden plant that means the world to me (and my bees)

    As summer tumbles into autumn, there are a number of garden flowers that come into their own, some of which are especially good for pollinating insects.

    We’ll delve into the world of the Michaelmas daisy rather closer to Michaelmas (which is 29th September) but I thought today I’d share an easy-to-grow flower that is currently splashing dollops of pink, magenta and ruby tones in my garden. We’re talking Cosmos.…

    • 11 Sep 2020
  • The shock arrival of a creature of the night

    I’ve talked before about how gardens can turn up real wildlife surprises. However, the events of last Sunday perhaps took the biscuit!

    I had sat down at the lounge window to have my bowl of cereal as I do to start my day - my feelgood touch-base with nature. There was plenty of bird activity in the garden, and at this time of year it is always worth watching for a migrant or two – maybe a Blackcap or Willow…

    • 4 Sep 2020
  • Dealing with a changing climate in the garden

    On 4 July this year, 101.8mm of rain (that’s over 4 inches in old money) fell on Aberllefenni in mid Wales. That was not only more rain than I had down here in Sussex in the whole of July – it was more than I had in the whole five months from mid-March to mid-August combined.

    Yes, until the last week we’ve been gasping down here, and there have been some plant casualties in my garden as a result.

    For…

    • 28 Aug 2020
  • Perfect pond plants for summer

    From what I am hearing, new ponds have been popping up (or should that be ‘popping down’?) in gardens all over the country during lockdown, which can only mean good things for garden wildlife. And one of the big questions when putting in a pond is always, “What should I plant?”

    [If you don't yet have a pond, then the RSPB now stocks a pond liner kit in three different sizes, which comes with a…

    • 21 Aug 2020
  • Introducing the Fairy-lights Beetle

    The other day, I was passing by my pond when I noticed what I thought was a small beetle that had fallen into the water. 

    I bent down ready for the gallant rescue and prepared myself to polish my halo when I noticed that it wasn't thrashing about, it wasn't caught in the surface tension, and indeed it suddenly seemed to hop quite effectively onto a neighbouring leaf of Broad-leaved Pondweed that was floating on the surface…

    • 14 Aug 2020
  • Feeling broody!

    One of the features of my garden over the last couple of weeks has been the sheer number of baby birds blundering about everywhere, fresh out of the nest.

    Many still have the tell-tale yellow 'gape flanges', such as on this Robin. These are the fleshy edges at the base of the bill that, together with the bright inside of the young birds' mouths (the 'gape') provide the useful indication to parents of where to shove any…

    • 7 Aug 2020
  • Sparkling cyanide - tales of a living, flying poison factory

    When I began to create my latest wildlife-friendly garden five years ago, I drew up a target list of creatures that I really wanted to create the right conditions for. Yes, I would be happy with whatever turned up, but there were some that I knew would excite me immensely if they took up my offer to move in

    One of them was this:

    It is the Six-spot Burnet Moth, a day flying moth with six bright red spots on each upper…

    • 31 Jul 2020
  • Letting wildlife do the talking

    One in a while, I step back from all the words and just let my garden do the talking, for the beauty of nature never ceases to amaze me, right there under our noses.

    A freshly emerged pristine Peacock takes in the sun on the log-pile.

    Field Poppy and Borage in the cornfield annual bed

    A Sparrowhawk comes for her daily bathe

    Bumblebees circle over the heads of the Globe-thistles, while orb webs are beginning to appear…

    • 24 Jul 2020
  • In praise of, erm, bramble

    When I was a kid, the summer holidays meant many things, such as camping in the garden, long cycle rides and maybe a week in Wales finding Cowrie shells in the rockpools and Choughs in the mountains.

    But another strong memory is of being sent out into the fields, tupperware boxes at the ready, to go blackberrying along the hedgerows. Me and my sister would come back with our fingers stained purple and with boxes (and…

    • 17 Jul 2020
  • The hotel is open for business!

    Over the last six weeks, I've had the pleasure of leading an online 'course' for thousands of people starting out on making their gardens and outside spaces better for nature.

    They've been able to watch little videos from me as I make birdbaths, create pop-up meadows and grow wildlife-friendly plants.

    One of the activities was to make a Bee Hotel, which very typically is done by creating some kind of box…

    • 10 Jul 2020
  • Lovely ladybirds

    When I think back to my childhood and the very first wildlife I became aware of and excited by, I remember being fascinated by three things: birds, butterflies, and ladybirds. There was something quite picture-perfect about the latter, both in their rounded shape and in their colouration, straight out of the red and black paint tins.

    In fact, I have strong memories of me and my primary school classmates finding them in…

    • 1 Jul 2020
  • Taking Time to Notice

    Three months into lockdown, and how are you all doing?

    Of course, it was well predicted that a global pandemic would happen sometime, but it feels like most of us were poorly prepared, probably not believing it would happen in our lifetimes.

    I wasn't prepared for a time when, in three months, I have left the house less than ten times, and where I've only been able to see my elderly mother once.

    But I feel very…

    • 25 Jun 2020
  • Creatures of the deep

    With all this heat, you've a good chance of seeing birds splashing around in your birdbath. It might whet your appetite for spotting some other wetland wildlife that might be visiting your gardens or outside spaces right now.

    Of course, if you have a pond of some sort, you have probably already spent many a moment gazing in wonder through the glassy surface into the curious world beneath. However, there are many pond…

    • 23 Jun 2020
  • Your summer garden butterfly guide

    Our garden butterflies do like to stick to schedule – you can pretty much set your calendar by when each species will emerge as an adult.

    Take the Peacock as an example (below). In autumn, the adults go into hibernation (one of only five UK species to spend the winter as a butterfly). They emerge on warm spring days in late March or April, mate, the females lay their eggs, and that generation of adults is over by…

    • 18 Jun 2020
  • Poppification

    The wildlife-friendly garden in June is awash with potential stories, there are so many things happening. But for today, I'm going with the plant that is screaming out to be noticed at the moment in my garden: the poppy.

    In fact, I may have jumped the gun in terms of visual spectacle because, although my swathe of Opium Poppies (above) is already pretty dramatic, there are hundreds more blooms to open.

    Next door…

    • 12 Jun 2020