• 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
  • Polishing my batting technique

    Ah, the blessed rains!

    Here is my pond this morning, the surface stippled with the pounding drops.

    The first rains came 10 days ago, and it amazing how quickly it has aroused the lawn from its desiccated slumber. Compare it with how yellow it all was just before the rains began:

    The pond is my biggest magnet for wildlife in the garden, with a Heron there this morning and a Kingfisher on the island earlier this…

    • 10 Aug 2018
  • The magic of ponds: instant dragons

    If there is one group of wildlife that responds quickly to your efforts, it has got to be the dragonflies and damselflies. All you need is to put in a pond of moderate size in a fairly sunny position and you would be very unlucky for it not to soon heave with these stunning insects in summer.

    My pond is now two and a half years old, and so into its third summer, and I've just been visited for the first time by what is…

    • 3 Aug 2018
  • Flying Ant Days: A date with fate in the sky

    When I arrived home from work on Wednesday, there was a mass of gulls very high over my garden, each one gliding in its own little circles, creating overlapping, rotating patterns in the sky. You can just make out some of the flock here.

    There are actually 94 gulls in this photo. Yup, I counted them (and they are a mix of Herring, Black-headed and Mediterranean for those who like to know these things). I reckon in…

    • 27 Jul 2018
  • Helping wildlife in the garden's summer heatwave

    There is one job I haven't had to do in the garden for 48 days now - read the rain gauge. As I enviously watch the blobs of blue move across the weather charts in the far north and west, tongue lolling, I'm sure almost all of you and your gardens will be feeling the effects of this desiccating summer.

    Just look at my lawn, if you can now call it that.

    I know it takes considerable nerve to hold off from trying…

    • 18 Jul 2018
  • Butterfly birthdays

    Right now in the first couple of weeks of July, garden butterfly numbers tend to rocket. The summer emergence of Peacocks, Commas, Brimstones, together with Meadow Browns and Speckled Woods, plus a surge in the number of 'cabbage white' butterflies, mean that there is a flitting and fluttering going on in a way not seen until this point in the year. The only problem is that it can all be very distracting when you're meant…

    • 13 Jul 2018
  • Bring on the burnets

    When I moved house (and garden) four years ago, I set out a list of target wildlife I wanted to make a home for. That then determined the habitats I needed to create and the plants I needed to grow.

    This target setting I find is a good game - it gives a focus, and it then gives a sense of achievement when the wildlife you're aiming for arrives and settles in.

    I like to believe my goals are ambitious, but it also…

    • 6 Jul 2018
  • A wolf in wasp's clothing

    I was taking a morning breather this week, which involves a quick lap of the garden after a burst of RSPB day-job work (just to let nature replenish the spirit - I find it better than caffeine), when I spotted a handful of flying insects scooting low over a large pile of dry, bare earth that is waiting to be turned into another Buttterfly Border.

    Looking more closely, they looked rather like little wasps, with the tell…

    • 29 Jun 2018
  • In the wildlife-friendly garden: helping nature's aviators

    I'm one of those people who have a very active dream life, and for the most part it is all rather pleasant, or even at times like an action movie.

    One of the dreams that I really look forward to is where I find out that I can fly. It doesn't happen very often, but when it does, I'm off! My flying action in dreams is rather like that of the Snowman - I just kind of zoom with my arms stretched out without having to…

    • 22 Jun 2018
  • For the love of a little green caterpillar

    The bedrock of wildlife-friendly gardening is plants. They fuel the foodchains that ultimately lead to our towns and villages being full of birds, bats, butterflies, bees, and indeed many creatures that don't start with a 'B'.

    The added value comes when you choose your plants well.

    So last week I was thrilled (to the point of rushing to get the camera) to see that one of my purposeful plant choices had come…

    • 15 Jun 2018
  • Making a pop-up meadow...and all about grasses

    Last week, I looked at how I'm making a garden 'hay meadow' from scratch.

    But what if you haven't got the time or money or energy to go to all the trouble of creating a clean seedbed and sowing it from scratch? What can you do with an existing lawn?

    Well, here's how my 'pop-up meadow', as the author Jenny Steel calls them, is shaping up in its first year.

    It is an area that I laid with…

    • 8 Jun 2018
  • Making a garden meadow

    I've got a bit of an experiment going at the moment in my garden - I'm making meadows, in different ways, and seeing how well they do and what wildlife they attract.

    Just to ensure clarity, we're talking perennial wildflower meadows, full of native wild grasses - the hay meadows from days of yore. These aren't beds of annual 'cornfield' flowers such as poppies. The distinction is critical because it drastically…

    • 1 Jun 2018
  • Inspiration for the wildlife-friendly garden: The seaside

    I was lucky enough to spend a week in May enjoying sights such as this:

    I was in Pembrokeshire in west Wales where Choughs seem to call from every clifftop and Gannets plunge dive offshore, and I took the Puffin photo above on the incredible island of Skomer, where some 30,000 breed.

    While there’s nothing you can do to make your garden perfect for Puffins, I’m always on the look-out for lessons I can bring back to…

    • 25 May 2018