Garden Safari

I bought a house with one bush, one tree and lawn. There was no shade, no flowers, no interest, no life. Six summers later, so much has changed and grown than we decided to spend a perfect summer’s day just exploring the wildlife that has made a home around us.

The fact that France seems very unsafe at the moment and Germany just over the border no better, made a day close to home doubly attractive.

It started with a tawny owl screeching before dawn and continued for 28 more species of birds, feeding in the garden or flying overhead: bull finches, linnets, redstarts, gold finches, green woodpeckers, serins, to name but a few in the garden and swifts , storks , sparrowhawks and even a honey buzzard overhead catching the warm breezes.

I had set my moth trap the night before and when I opened the lid there were 12 different species of night time beauties including oak eggar, cream waves and the extraordinarily named, setaceous hebrew character.

There were no big five mammals to hunt , but there was a soft furred pipistrelle bat hanging under the eves over the front door and a hedgehog wheezing and snuffling indignantly in his ideally overgrown raspberry patch in the in corner. Hedgehogs can make such a huge range of noises and this one sounded like water squirting and gurgling out of blocked garden hose.

The butterflies were out in force, a constantly flittering wall of wings over the lavender hedge and the budlia bushes. We identified 10 types from green viened whites to brimstones, but the commonest by far were the hundreds of gatekeepers over the flowers. I made a film of them and while I filmed my neighbour provided a perfect sound track as his practiced his accordion over the road with his patio door open – very Alsacian!
If I can work it out, I will up load it for you to see and hear.

We dug out all the guide books and Ed indentified 5 species of bees and 20 further mini beasts from hover flies to harvest men amongst the leaves and flowers of our disgracefully overgrown garden.

At the end of the day I was delighted to tally up 79 species of creatures and I know there are many, many more. We didn’t even start on the plants in the garden and will leave that for another day and another holiday.
Anyone can have a garden like ours, just mow the lawn very occasionally, let trees and flowers self seed, plant garden flowers that insects like and ignore anything that needs spraying with poisonous chemicals. Stop being so tidy; leave the corners completely wild and most importantly take time to marvel at the wildlife that can turn the most sterile garden to fascinating habitat with just a little benign neglect on your part!


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