• Filling your garden with holes

    This is the time of year, particularly with some sunny weather, when stories from the wildlife-friendly garden start to come thick and fast.

    But while I'm itching to talk about crocuses and woodpeckers and bumblebees, I'm writing this on 14 February so that means there's just one topic - nestboxes. Valentine's Day is typically given as the day to think of putting up a new box.

    The basic idea is of course…

    • 15 Feb 2019
  • Dull as dishwater? No, this garden bird is a loved-up cutie

    There are some garden birds which definitely don't sit at the glamorous end of the spectrum and never seem to hit the headlines. They are the boring brigade, the dowdy dullards.

    In fact, I realised despite the topic of today's blog being a common garden bird, I haven't mentioned it in almost ten years of blogging. So is it really that unexceptional?

    I've been prompted to talk about them because in the last…

    • 8 Feb 2019
  • Tiny changes, big effects: gardens and microclimates

    How did you get on in the Big Garden Birdwatch last weekend? My Wood Pigeons outshone themselves with a count of 16, and overall I counted 57 birds of 18 species. Of course there were the 'no shows' - where were my Grey Wagtail and my Coal Tit? And there was the surprise - a Starling! Woohoo! I almost never get Starlings (although it was hardly a murmuration).

    Don't forget to post your results here. Low scores…

    • 1 Feb 2019
  • Gardens and wildlife – so much to love

    Over the last few weeks, I've been out and about on several evenings giving talks about wildlife gardening. What I love is how many people have stories they want to share from their own gardens as well as a myriad of questions.

    Ok, so I wasn’t expecting the tale from one lovely lady about the eagle that came and took a lamb from her garden when she was a child (it was in Persia!), but that just shows how universal…

    • 27 Jan 2019
  • Your quick and easy guide to planting a garden hedge

    There are certain things you can do in the garden that transform a space from 'ok for wildlife' to 'fantastic', and one of those is the amazing 'cropped tree corridor', or CTC.

    "So what does this miracle CTC look like?" I hear you cry.

    Well, here's one example:

    It does have a rather mundane alternative name that you might have heard of, for this is the common or garden 'hedge'.…

    • 18 Jan 2019
  • In the Garden Olympics, bring on the long jumpers

    There are some groups of wildlife species that are relatively common in the wider countryside but are quite a rarity in gardens.

    Of these, one group in particular stands out for their absence. Yes, despite our gardens containing so much grass, we have hardly any grasshoppers.

    It is a shame, because they are rather cute, quite harmless creatures, endlessly fascinating for children, and an important part of the foodchain…

    • 11 Jan 2019
  • In the wildlife-friendly garden: Turning silver into gold

    Right now is prime time for planting bare-rooted trees in the garden, which I witter on about endlessly because it is so cheap, quick and easy. No garden know-how required - just a spade and the right space.

    As someone said to me recently, don't imagine that you are planting it for your grandchildren. Young trees grow so much quicker than people tend to realise, so you are growing them for YOU.

    The joy they then bring…

    • 3 Jan 2019
  • Starting the year in technicolour in the garden

    Here we go, another year begins, and I hope you feel all fired up and raring to go in the garden.

    For me, this is year 5 as I try to transform my garden for wildlife. I spent 15 years in my previous garden, but these last five years in my 'new' garden have whizzed by.

    Last year was amazing, with Common Blue, Brown Argus and Wall butterflies all colonising, dragonfly numbers doubling again (my totals are now 20…

    • 1 Jan 2019
  • Get wildlife rich at the Bee Bank

    Much attention is given to the Bee Hotels you can attach to your garden wall or fence that are typically wooden boxes filled with hollow tubes and plant stems. And very good they are, too, with a very high chance of success if the holes are the right size (about 2–10mm diameter) and the box is put in a sunny sheltered location at about chest height.

    What isn't so widely known is that they only provide nesting chambers…

    • 21 Dec 2018
  • Getting ready for Big Garden Birdwatch: breaking the spell of procrastination

    There's no point dishing out advice if you're not going to follow it yourself. So, given that almost a month ago I said that the time to start preparing for Big Garden Birdwatch is 'now', I duly got myself out there, cleaned the feeders, and fished out a peanut feeder that had been languishing in the garage and filled it with fatty nibbles which are the Great Spotted Woodpeckers' favourite in my garden…

    • 12 Dec 2018
  • Listening for worms

    This autumn, I was delighted to have some close encounters with Song Thrushes. I was on the Isles of Scilly, where much of the birdlife is much tamer than on the mainland, and where Song Thrushes remain wonderfully common, again in contrast to much of the rest of the country.

    Indeed, in last year's Big Garden Birdwatch on the islands, the Song Thrush came in at Number 12, with an average of 0.7 per garden, five times…

    • 7 Dec 2018
  • Tales from the garden: Star performers

    Imagine you had never seen one of these in your life before. Isn't it just the most beautiful thing?

    Look at the iridescence, the greens and purples. And those white feather tips, like perfect little spear heads.

    It is of course the Starling, meaning the 'little thing covered in stars'.

    What you have also no doubt noticed is the strangely flared throat feathers, which is a tell-tale sign that this bird is…

    • 30 Nov 2018
  • Tales from the wildlife-friendly garden: A tallish, dark stranger drops in

    I love it when the unexpected happens in the garden. And here was the surprise visitor to my pond this Wednesday.

    Yes, it's one of my photos where you have to hunt for what got me excited, hiding amongst the leaved of Branched Bur-reed plants as they die back for the winter.

    Here's another photo as it revealed itself, picking gently around the pond margin:

    An all dark waterbird with a red and yellow beak and…

    • 23 Nov 2018
  • Why 'now' is the best time to start preparing for the Big Garden Birdwatch

    When I moved into my house (and garden) in December 2014, it had been empty for almost a year and no bird feeding had taken place in that time, and probably for much longer than that.

    I immediately put out seed and peanut feeders and started recording the daily comings and goings, and it became an excellent chance to find out how long it would take birds to find the new food supply.

    Well, it took just under a week for…

    • 19 Nov 2018
  • Birds and windows

    One of the sounds I dread when in the house or garden is the thud as a bird strikes a window. Even if they bounce off, the lasting damage of being stunned cannot be good for their chances of survival, and every year, I expect to find maybe two or three birds killed outright by the impact. Who knows how many more struggled off under a bush to die or are picked up by a Fox before I notice it.

    There are about  25 million…

    • 9 Nov 2018
  • Mealworms and Hedgehogs: a definite no-no

    In the last edition of Nature's Home magazine, in the section where I get to visit a gardener who is doing amazing things for wildlife, I included a letter from a family who had made a lovely bug house with Hedgehog nestbox incorporated in its base. I thought they had been really creative, and they clearly get a lot of pleasure from the Hedgehogs that come to visit.

    However, what I failed to register was where they…

    • 2 Nov 2018
  • A home for the winter

    I'm delighted to hand over this week's blog to the RSPB's Media Officer for South and West Scotland, Jenny Tweedie, with an autumn tale (and photos) from her own garden.

    I recently came across an old aerial photo of my garden that really surprised me. The sun was shining, and there was no sign of any snow on the ground, but I knew it was winter because my garden, and all the gardens round about, looked incredibly…

    • 26 Oct 2018
  • Getting the wildlife-friendly garden ready for winter

    The good thing for all of us who love the wildlife in our gardens is that our interest in the world outside the window doesn't fade with the flowers. Instead, we can look forward to winter in the garden, for it will be enlivened by all the birds that will visit.

    So what can you do to prepare the garden for a wildlife-filled winter? Here are my five top tips:

    1) Leave flower stems standing. It is so rewarding to…

    • 19 Oct 2018
  • Something a little seedy in paradise

    Last week I had the great pleasure of visiting the Isles of Scilly, 30 miles off the tip of mainland UK and yet a world away. An archipelago of white sandy beaches, rare birds and wild winds, and where shorts are order of the day in October. Paradise.

    In terms of gardening, the islands are astonishing in terms of the range of subtropical plants that can be grown, thanks to how rare frosts and snow are on the islands…

    • 12 Oct 2018
  • Making a Pop-up Meadow

    This spring, I allowed a square area of lawn in my back garden to grow...and grow...and grow.

    It is what the wonderful wildlife gardening writer Jenny Steel calls a 'pop-up meadow'. You just let the lawn do its thing for a few weeks or even for much of the summer.

    It became a froth of grass seedheads, and the result was rather delightful visually. This all from just a bog standard area of turf that I laid two…

    • 5 Oct 2018
  • Strictly come dragonflying

    It is great to see wildlife in the garden, but to see them actually doing things is even better, and dragonflies over a garden pond allow you to observe all sorts of fascinating behaviour at close range.

    Of late, it is the Common Darters that have been providing much of the entertainment over my pond as they dance in pairs, and so I set myself the challenge of recording some of their moves.

    Up to six or seven males…

    • 28 Sep 2018
  • Grow a fruity harvest for winter thrushes

    I'm often asked if I have a favourite bird, to which I normally say "The last one I saw". While that is often true, I do admit to having a lingering soft spot for Redwings and Fieldfares.

    For someone like me, born and brought up in the countryside of the English Midland shires, these were birds that had a tangible mystique about them. Completely absent all summer, there is then that point in October when…

    • 21 Sep 2018
  • Just bugging...

    When it comes to insects, the glamour-pusses such as the butterflies, bees and dragonflies tend to command our attention, but in the last couple of weeks, it has been some more unsung creatures that have caught my eye in my garden.

    They belong to the group of insects called 'the bugs' - not the way we tend to use the word these days to mean anything small and creepy-crawly, but 'true bugs' or the hemipterans. There are…

    • 14 Sep 2018
  • Nature's tonic

    In over eight years of writing this blog, I think I’ve only previously missed one Friday morning’s posting, and yet I’ve just been silent for two weeks on the trot.

    I have a very good excuse. The doctors called it viral labyrinthitis. which inflames the canals of the inner ear. For those who have had it, I can now fully empathise with the horrors of what feels like being trapped in the washing machine…

    • 7 Sep 2018
  • Passing trade: night-time garden arrivals on nature's great flyway

    The days are shortening, the elderberries are blackening, and there's a definite whiff of autumn on the horizon.

    For those birds which are only summer visitors to Britain, their hormones now respond to the seasonal changes underway, telling their bodies to pack on the fat and get ready for long, intercontinental flights ahead. Thousands of warblers and flycatchers, Swallows and martins are destined for unimaginable…

    • 17 Aug 2018