• 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 these little domed beetles, 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…

    • 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
  • Digger wasp dramas

    Some movement caught my eye in my seaside garden this week, little insects playing about on the sand.

    It turned out to be tiny Spiny Digger Wasps engaged in their amazing burrow creation. Here, they provision nesting burrow with flies that they carry about like a backpack on their stings!

    But I realised that words weren't quite going to convey the action, so the only solution was to make a little one-and-a-half minute…

    • 5 Jun 2020
  • Swimming serpent spectacular

    This week, I lifted up a sheet of roofing material I have lying in a sunny part of the garden and found these two snuggling up to each other.

    On top is the bronzed beauty that is the Slow-worm. Beneath, with the tell-tale double-yellow marking on the back of the head, is a young Grass Snake. Who would have thought that they make happy bedfellows?!

    I'm now five years into trying to make my garden an ideal home for both…

    • 29 May 2020
  • Give in to total flower power

    Helping wildlife in the garden starts and ends with plants. Even when putting up nestboxes (made out of wood) or feeding the birds (with plant seeds) or making compost (from dead plants), you can't escape that essential fact.

    It means that one of my greatest joys is growing the diversity of plants that in turn lead to the diversity of life. It is why I always say to people who want to help wildlife in their outdoor…

    • 22 May 2020
  • Sowing seeds: the next chapter

    A few weeks ago (27 March - gosh, seven weeks of lockdown ago), I blogged about sowing seeds, with all my top tips to help increase your chances of success.

    The blog also included my top secret when growing seeds - they won't all germinate. Not for Alan Titchmarsh; not for Monty Don. With growing plants from seed, you do your best and hope and pray, and those that come off you really cherish and celebrate.

    So, how…

    • 15 May 2020
  • When you can't get to the seaside...

    ...bring the seaside to you!

    During this lockdown, I've been itching to get out and walk along a shore, smell the sea, and hear the calls of shorebirds.

    While that's not possible, I can at least visit my own little bit of coast, because last year I made a 'Seaside Garden'.

    It is only small, about four metres by three. I dug out an area to about a foot depth, filled it with rubble left over from when I…

    • 8 May 2020
  • Whoomph! The garden goes into overdrive

    You know how children at a certain age suddenly seem to put on height overnight? Turn your back a moment and the next thing you know they're as tall as you are!

    Well, that's what gardens are like at this time of year. It's what I call the 'Whoomph' stage. That spring sunshine is getting ever stronger, the days longer, we've had some rain to give it a boost, and now plants have put their foot on the gas.…

    • 2 May 2020
  • Getting to grips with garden birdsong


    As many of you will know, my passion for wildlife-friendly gardening is matched by my love of birdsong. (You may remember the RSPB Let Nature Single I led the creation of last year, which got to Number 18 in the charts - thanks to all of you who downloaded it to help that happen).

    I find that gardening and birdsong complement…

    • 24 Apr 2020
  • All is not what it seems in the garden

    With so many people spending so much more time in their gardens, I know that many of you are noticing the little things that might normally pass you by.

    For instance, I got a text from a friend this week saying, "What's the funny little bee I've seen in my garden that seems to have a big spike on the front of its face?"

    Ah, now that would be this, which I photographed in my garden this week and is probably…

    • 17 Apr 2020
  • Play the Game of Firsts in the garden

    Here is a little nature game that can be played on a daily basis, by all ages, in any type of garden or balcony or outside space as an absorbing distraction from everything going on in the world.

    I call it the Game of Firsts.

    Your challenge, should you choose to accept it, is to find something new every day in nature in your outdoor space. It could be something you haven't seen before, heard, thought about.

    I don…

    • 10 Apr 2020
  • Spring garden butterfly guide

    With warm weather forecast for much of the country this weekend, there should be a surge of butterfly sightings in gardens, bringing welcome elegance and grace. But which species is which?

    Of course, one of the main ways to identify butterflies is by how they look, but there are three more essential clues that help narrow down possibilities:

    • Range: Some butterflies are only found in a limited geographical area. For example…
    • 3 Apr 2020
  • How to successfully sow seeds

    If there’s one thing well worth doing in these dark times it is sowing some seeds. We’re seeing so many people doing it metaphorically in terms of kindness and love (the more of that the better!), but this is the perfect time to do it with most plant seeds, too.

    It is so satisfying to watch something that starts as little more than a dry husk then grow – thanks to you – into glorious, healthy plants, bringing…

    • 27 Mar 2020
  • Waiting for the sun to come out

    It was a grey day yesterday down here in West Sussex, with a mizzly drizzle that wasn't forecast but just didn't abate. It seemed to sum up the cloud that we are all under at the moment.

    I needed some of nature's tonic, so took myself into the garden, camera in hand.

    There were no insects to be seen or heard, and the birds were largely lying low. So it was down to the flowers to catch my eye. Every day now…

    • 20 Mar 2020
  • There's a mouse not in the house

    Sometimes I have my Friday garden-and-wildlife blogstory all planned out when something else pops out of nowhere to steal the limelight.

    So it was this week, when I went out to fill up the birdfeeders and caught a glimpse of something in the Ivy near my nyger seed feeder, something other than a Goldfinch for which it is intended.

    I peered through the foliage to find some beady little eyes peering back at me:

    Now, when…

    • 13 Mar 2020
  • Listen out for a garden drum solo - or even duet

    It didn't stop raining from first light till dark here in Sussex today. It meant that I didn't step outside once, so my daily nature boost had to come from the view through the window. I'm not complaining, given that my regular diners include beauties such as this Great Spotted Woodpecker, here enjoying the sunflower hearts just outside my study .

    Such close encounters are, of course, difficult to come by…

    • 6 Mar 2020
  • Overnight accommodation in an inner city green motel

    I was away this week for my RSPB dayjob, which required me staying overnight right in the heart of an English city centre. I arrived at my sixth-floor, identikit motel room just as dusk was falling and looked out at the neon-lit slick of concrete, glass and tarmac laid out before me, with its soundtrack of car engines and police sirens.

    However, across the way on a bare concrete rooftop I noticed some fluttering movements…

    • 28 Feb 2020
  • Getting the wildlife-friendly garden ready for spring

    In my garden down here in Sussex, there’s an unmistakeable whiff of spring in the air. The daffs are pushing up, there are deep purple dots of Sweet Violets everywhere, and whenever there is a pause in the rain and the wind, my garden birds are singing at the top of their little lungs.

    Then, yesterday, I had my first frogspawn in one of my ponds.

    I’m sure for all of you, no matter how far north you are, there are…

    • 21 Feb 2020
  • Moving in to the love nest

    During the lull between storms this week, some of my garden birds were getting into the Valentine's Day spirit. Birdsong filled the air, but for one of my pairs of Blue Tits, house hunting was definitely top of the agenda.

    It starts with a bit of hole inspection.

    Interestingly, this is typically initiated by the male, and indeed this picture is a male Blue Tit. Telling one sex from the other is a subtle business…

    • 14 Feb 2020
  • Going straight to the top of the tree

    I'm about to inflict on you some of the worst wildlife photography you will ever see, but I hope it makes an important point about bird-friendly gardens.

    Here's the first of the shots, taken in my garden today (I said the photos were bad!):

    It shows two Greenfinches and a Goldfinch (there, at least you now have the game of finding all three!) t the top of my Walnut tree.

    The reason for showing you this is to…

    • 7 Feb 2020
  • Come with me into Granny’s Garden!

    I was delighted this week to be contacted by Ruth Snowden, who wrote to tell me about her garden, 400 feet up above the Irish Sea in windswept, rainswept Cumbria. “Unsurprisingly heathers do very well, and the bees love them”.

    “There are three ponds, with Frogs and newts, lots of bird feeders, a wild jungle, a wildflower patch with orchids and Cowslips...and lots of exciting little paths to explore. We back…

    • 31 Jan 2020
  • Combating climate change in the garden

    It has been the coldest week of the winter so far for me down here near the Sussex coast. We had a frost. Woohoo! It was SO cold that my main pond froze over, for the first time this winter. And then immediately thawed again. I know, I know -  it is hardly what you'd call 'winter', is it? And I see the forecast is for temperatures back in double digits for the next week or two at least.

    That's not saying we…

    • 24 Jan 2020