• Woodn't it be good! Rustic recycling projects for the garden

    While visiting my mum in our Christmas bubble, I took a walk around her village and was delighted to see this:

    I don't mean the black-and-white thatched cottage, delightful as it is. No, I mean the home-made fence. What a wonderful way to recycle what I assume are old branches from the back garden, or at least from somewhere very local. No importing here of fence panels from some Scandinavian or Latvian forest.

    • 19 Feb 2021
  • Bring on the butterflies!

    I know the country is still in a deep freeze, but all the more reason to leap forward in our minds to imagine the forthcoming spring, summer and autumn filled with sunshine and butterflies. That, plus the prospect of birdsong and blossom, certainly helps me through this Covid marathon.

    Oh, and I’m also on a promise to talk about such things. A couple of weeks ago I talked about how well different groups of creatures…

    • 12 Feb 2021
  • Quick and easy flowers: Seven seeds to sow soon for wildlife (and for you!)

    It looks like many of you might find yourself under a blanket of snow this weekend, but don't be misled - the year is cracking on apace, we're into February already, and that means it is time to start sowing seeds, at least indoors.

    Growing plants from seed can sound like it is something for the 'experts' only, the green-fingered ones. But no, no, and an even more emphatic no! Growing from seed is a miracle open…

    • 5 Feb 2021
  • A Haka in suburbia

    I was taking half an hour out from screen-sitting to do a little bit of digging of my new pond-to-be when all hell broke loose in the garden two doors down. The air filled with a raucous cawing as some Carrion Crows went crazy about something.

    But it wasn't just a handful of them, which is the typical number I see in or from my garden. No, there were dozens of them.

    This photo shows at least 27 (plus a Jackdaw on…

    • 29 Jan 2021
  • The power of the count

    How well is wildlife doing in your garden? Are its populations going up, or down? Are all your efforts bearing fruit?

    Given that I spend so much time promoting all the things that people might like to do to help wildlife in their gardens, it is rather important that I back it up with some hard evidence. I spend hours trying to help wildlife, but does it actually work?

    Well, with the turn of the year, that's another year…

    • 22 Jan 2021
  • The icing on the cake

    There are four big reasons why I leave flower stems and seedheads standing in my flower borders throughout the winter.

    1) There is every chance that they will provide winter seed for birds

    The most familiar example is of Goldfinches feeding on Teasel (above), but just as effective can be Verbena bonariensis, Chicory, lavenders, burdocks, Eryngiums and Rudbeckias.

    2) The second reason is that the architecture of stems…

    • 15 Jan 2021
  • Vital pickings in winter's freezer

    Brrrrrrrrr! It's Thursday afternoon as I write this, the sun has just set, and I've just come in from outside where most of the frost hadn't lifted all day. I swear I've got icicles forming on my appendages.

    The ice on the pond had formed dramatic starbursts today...

    ..while rime attractively picked out all the veins on fallen leaves.

    It's alright for us, diving into our centrally heated houses, but…

    • 8 Jan 2021
  • All About Robins: New Year Quiz

    I hope you and those around you have made it safely into 2021, and that you found creative ways to make this festive period as enjoyable as possible.

    I know many of you will still be in holiday mode right now, so if you are looking for little things to do on these long evenings, I thought I’d offer you one option to fill 15 minutes  or so: a garden wildlife quiz. In fact, I’ve based it entirely around the nation…

    • 1 Jan 2021
  • The best day of the year is coming...

    I get so excited at this time of year knowing that the most exciting day of the year is about to happen. Let's hear it for the 22nd of December - yeah!

    No, it's not my birthday. It's special because it is the day after the shortest day. On 21 December, from sunrise to sunset here in Sussex was 7 hours, 56 minutes and 29 seconds. On the 22nd, I get an extra three seconds. The further north you are, well, you're looking…

    • 17 Dec 2020
  • The Story of Han the Self-murmurating Starling

    The word 'murmuration' seems to have seeped its way into the public's consciousness these days, which is wonderful. It describes the massed aerial manoeuvres of great flocks of Starlings as they arrive at their roost sites.

    I see that the Sun newspaper this week carried a story about a murmuration that formed into the shape of a duck. It's surprisingly convincing (and is at the wonderful RSPB Fairburn…

    • 11 Dec 2020
  • The (garden) times, they are a'changing

    Every day of late, a merry band of Long-tailed Tits has come wending its way through my garden.

    I love how bonded they are, making constant quiet 'tip....tip....tip' calls to stay in contact with each other. It jumps to a more insistent 'si-si-si' if they are feeling a little nervous or can't quite see each other, and rises yet again to a bold, rippling 'sirrut' if they really are getting their knickers in a twist. To…

    • 4 Dec 2020
  • Giving a little back to nature

    You find me in reflective mood. Maybe it is because of the drizzle outside in what has been an unrelentingly grey and gloomy week; maybe it is because we are all coming to terms with the prospect of the revised tier system and the Christmas rules.

    Whatever the reason, I'm counting my blessings. My natural blessings. I feel so incredibly grateful that the wildlife in and around my garden has given me such a wealth of happiness…

    • 27 Nov 2020
  • 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