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 the ‘gardens and wildlife’ theme is.
In fact, I sometimes think that I should ditch the talk itself and just open it up as a Q&A mixed with a 'Show and Tell'!
For me, there are three reasons why garden wildlife is so incredibly important.
The first is that gardens hold more wildlife than most people think. Gardens might not have Marsh Harriers and Bitterns like Minsmere, or Capercaillie and Ospreys like the Abernethy, but they are often full of interesting creatures.
The best study we have is one done over 30 years by the dedicated Jennifer Owen. In her bog-standard, suburban Leicestershire garden, she found a whopping 2,674 different wildlife species.
For example, she found 94 species of hoverfly, 99 different species of bee, and 442 species of beetle. Some are much easier to recognise than people often realise, such as this hoverfly (below) that visits my garden - it is called Myathropa florea, but I call it the 'Batman Hoverfly' because of the marking on its back.
While many of the creatures found in gardens are rather small, together they add up to a richness right outside your door.
Which leads me onto the second reason why garden wildlife is so important, and that is precisely because it is on your doorstep. It is wildlife that you can encounter every day, and in an intimate way. We tend to look at wildlife more closely in our gardens, and we revel in the visitors that come.
If future generations are to care for wildlife, they really need to have experienced it. So we need to send out the message that gardens are an ideal place for this adventure to begin. If we can open people's eyes to the riches under our noses, then we're on the right track.
And the third reason is thatwe can all make a difference for our garden wildlife. We don't have to wait for permission – we can just get on and do it. We have the opportunity and privilege to do something amazing with our own little bit of Planet Earth.
For me, I'm fortunate to now have a large garden where I have wildlife visit like Kingfishers and Little Egrets, but before that I had a postage stamp of a garden for 15 years and yet was able to make lots of improvements there that meant I was visited by pleasures such as Marbled White butterflies, Firecrests (below) and breeding Toads.
It only takes a little bit of know-how and a bit of effort to turn a garden from something that is ok for wildlife into something that is pretty amazing. And the more of us that do that, the closer we will be to saving nature.
And your closing image is a sneak preview of the next garden that I will feature in Nature's Home magazine - what a stunner!
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