Encouraging wildlife.

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Toddy

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Jan 21, 2005
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I think this might make an interesting kind of sub-forum if there's enough input.

Encouraging wildlife doesn't need to mean that you turn your front garden into some out of place looking suburban jungle, or that you can't discourage pest species, like rats, while giving a helping hand to hedgehogs.
I think it just needs a little bit of benevolent tolerance and quiet effort.

I started a thread earlier in the week about the butterflies feeding on the ivy that I let grow up and over a fence. It's a beautiful green wall, but another neighbour rigorously roots it out because she wants to paint her fence every year. Thankfully that side of the garden is where I grow roses tangled through with honeysuckle, so her need to paint doesn't clash with my need to grow :)

I don't think mine's been painted in twenty. It doesn't need it, it's dry and protected hidden behind the ivy :)
I do check. It's also full of birds all year long. From the nests in Spring and Summer, to the wrens rustling through it just now on the hunt of spiders and the like. In a few weeks it'll be covered in ripening berries and the woodpigeons will descend (if I'm quick I'll get a basketful of berries for dye before they guzzle the lot) It's used as a roost by the long tailed tits and the robins through Winter too.

You know those wildflower filled verges, roundabouts and central reservations on our roads ? well, some of those mixes aren't native ones, they're colourful ones. It's not rocket science though to get hold of native seed mixes, or make them. Even a small patch, along a fence line, or tucked in a quiet corner, can make a huge difference. It becomes a pleasure to recognise native species coming up, flowering, seeding, year after year, and even more so when the insects and invertebrates appear too. Even just planting a few native 'weeds' like yarrow, or foxgloves, in a pot or flowerbed really does help a lot. It doesn't have to be stinging nettles or dandelions and fireweed.

I wondered about helping to create our own native mix of plants that grow in abundance near us ? It's the wrong season to do that really now though, hopefully I'll mind next year.

However, companies like this one make it easy
https://www.wildflower.co.uk/?mc_cid=3c3d9a6340&mc_eid=1ca6ad6d56
(no benefit to me, simply that I've bought seed and been very pleased :) )

I admit I'm tempted to suggest to Himself that we don't bother cutting the grass next year and just leave it and see what comes up :D Well, maybe just cut the edges to keep things within reason and the paths clear to get in and out.

Anyhow, my ramble's over :) and I think I'm going to go and pester Scott to come and add to the thread; he helps the hedgehogs, feeds up the underweight ones until he's sure they have sufficient reserves to get them safely through Winter :cool:

M
 

Wander

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Jan 6, 2017
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Great idea for a sub-forum.

A few weeks back I managed to get hold of some corrugated iron bits and I've placed them in an area that I think will be ideal for reptiles (I've seen grass snakes in the area). I'm not so sure I've got them in the best exact spot (couldn't find somewhere that would catch the sun and still be discreet) but we'll see how it goes.
Fingers crossed.
 
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Janne

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Feb 10, 2016
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Grand Cayman, Norway, Sweden
For the last 10 years, I have planted up a bare building plot. Started gathering local plants as soon as we bought the plot and rented, planted them in plastic pots.
Then started the planting about a year before we built the house.

No animals were there before, now we have several birds species, a semi wild cat that hunts, bees, various butterflies.
Iguanas have been culled clean, so we now even have flowers!

Gardening is a therapy for me, relaxation after a stressful day.

A birdbath is one of the most important features. We put new fresh water in it every day.
 

Robson Valley

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Nov 24, 2014
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McBride, BC
Toddy points out that the underpinning of ecosystems is the plant community.
The new energy is added through the photosynthesis with sunlight.
Any enhancement of the plant community and the animals, the herbivores and the carnivores, are sure to follow.

What do your grass snakes eat, Wander? Can you enhance prey habitat? The snakes will figure the rest out for themselves.
But you're right = figure out what's needed for niche conditions and help it along a little bit.

From time to time here, road sides of logging tracks are cleared away for safety/visibility/snow piling reasons.
The revealed mineral soil needs stabilization and nutrient for a new plant community.
It appears that the herbivore community of boreal forest edge (from mice to elk) want clover to eat.
So, we buy a couple kg clover seed and go for a long walk.
Interesting how in a year or two, those clover strips just happen to attract ruffed grouse.
Besides appearing on my table, those grouse are your very best chance to see Lynx and Bobcats.
 

saxonaxe

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Sep 29, 2018
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Pembrokeshire
Extraordinary coincidence Toddy. I came from the kitchen where I had just finished inspecting my latest wild bird menu, to find that you had made this post while I was busy...:D

May I present...fresh from the 'fridge...Home cooked, special dishes of Nuts, suet and bacon fat 'Dangles'....:laugh:



The cottage that I have moved to recently backs onto a very large area of woodland and open country.


Raiding parties of feathered and furred critters seemed to have formed the idea that my place is the local McDonald's, and so in order to avoid going bankrupt keeping them fed, I have commenced home cooking operations..

Yogurt pots are the moulds as they cut away easily with kitchen scissors when the contents have solidified in the fridge.

Here's one regular customer..


And more colourful ones..


A poor photograph through glass as Woody is, as yet, not as trusting as the smaller diners that visit.


If I had continued to keep the bird feeders full, and that was just two feeders, at the rate they were being emptied it would have cost me about £14 a week ( 7 x £2 peanuts+suet) and so home production has commenced....:D
 

baggins

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Apr 20, 2005
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I have to say, in todays climate, this isn't such a bad idea. My own tiny garden is laid out in a balance between veg and fruit, some lawn and a rough area of tall shrubs for birds. My biggest problem is growing veg for food, yet not loosing it all to the critters, while still encouraging them in :aarghh::aarghh::aarghh:. We used to have a healthy hedgehog pop and foxes (urban coventry) but, since they built on the land at the back of us, they've all gone. Gutted! I try to do my bit and further advice and experiences will surely be helpfull.
 
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Toddy

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Jan 21, 2005
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Great idea for a sub-forum.

A few weeks back I managed to get hold of some corrugated iron bits and I've placed them in an area that I think will be ideal for reptiles (I've seen grass snakes in the area). I'm not so sure I've got them in the best exact spot (couldn't find somewhere that would catch the sun and still be discreet) but we'll see how it goes.
Fingers crossed.

I hope it works too :) it sounds such a simple idea but I mind my Dad lifting a long wide board of timber that had lain in the grass for a couple of years, and the wildlife under it was amazing :D There was even a field mouse's nest, a couple of toads and a huge number of insects. Fascinating for a child to see :)

M
 

Toddy

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Jan 21, 2005
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I have to say, in todays climate, this isn't such a bad idea. My own tiny garden is laid out in a balance between veg and fruit, some lawn and a rough area of tall shrubs for birds. My biggest problem is growing veg for food, yet not loosing it all to the critters, while still encouraging them in :aarghh::aarghh::aarghh:. We used to have a healthy hedgehog pop and foxes (urban coventry) but, since they built on the land at the back of us, they've all gone. Gutted! I try to do my bit and further advice and experiences will surely be helpfull.

You have my complete sympathy :sigh:
Round here land is worth a lot of money and the builders have put up ninety flats on the piece of land we used to call the hayfield, over the burn from us. They got round everything from the badgers dens to the water rats and got planning permission anyway. They built a huge great wall to edge the far side of the little valley that the burn sometimes fills so that they could level the ground. We call it Alcatraz :rolleyes:
The only saving grace is that the burn is now protected as a burn because they can't do anything else to it now. I am quietly planting reedmace and watercress and other native water plants. The ducks nested down in the shallow waters behind one of the factory fences this year too though.
It's not pretty, it's not ideal, but given peace and opportunity, wildlife will colonise anyway. Every little garden plot that helps enrich the area is a good thing :)

M
 
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Janne

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Feb 10, 2016
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Grand Cayman, Norway, Sweden
Dad old me he never did any gardening because the wildlife needed the long grass, dropped leaves and dead flower heads.
Mother called him lazy, but I never had a shortage of earthworms to fish with!

Winter birdfood:
Back in Sweden, I used to buy a couple of coconuts, cut away a portion of the shell on the side, then ill the cavity with ta tallow and sunflower mix. kept the flesh in the coconut.
Hung up so I could see the nuts. Birds loved it.

These days, I just collect the coconuts, drill two holes, empty the water in a jar, cool it and drink it.
Tie the nuts together into a raft, then toss into the canal. Baby fish like that. And I do not clog up the refuse bin.

If people were doing just a tiny bit extra, the wildlife would flourish.
 
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Toddy

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@saxonaxe

You're a lucky man living there :D and it's lovely to see the wildlife already accepting you in the area too.
I put a length of fence wire through an apple and hang it up on the feeder too. The squirrels, which I have to admit destroy any bird feeder that's not specifically squirrel proof, seem to relish the fruit.
The woodpeckers really do love the fat blocks, but at least you got a photo of one, the ones that I see on the rowan tree feeders are like flashes of red and their gone.

M
 

Toddy

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Jan 21, 2005
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Dad old me he never did any gardening because the wildlife needed the long grass, dropped leaves and dead flower heads.
Mother called him lazy, but I never had a shortage of earthworms to fish with!

I will get a copy of the photos that Son1 took last week of the worms in my compost bins :D
His girlfriend squeaked and bolted when the writhing mass dropped off the lid :D Brandling worms by the pound !

M
 
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Nomad64

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Nov 21, 2015
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UK
Extraordinary coincidence Toddy. I came from the kitchen where I had just finished inspecting my latest wild bird menu, to find that you had made this post while I was busy...:D

May I present...fresh from the 'fridge...Home cooked, special dishes of Nuts, suet and bacon fat 'Dangles'....:laugh:



The cottage that I have moved to recently backs onto a very large area of woodland and open country.


Raiding parties of feathered and furred critters seemed to have formed the idea that my place is the local McDonald's, and so in order to avoid going bankrupt keeping them fed, I have commenced home cooking operations..

Yogurt pots are the moulds as they cut away easily with kitchen scissors when the contents have solidified in the fridge.

Here's one regular customer..


And more colourful ones..


A poor photograph through glass as Woody is, as yet, not as trusting as the smaller diners that visit.


If I had continued to keep the bird feeders full, and that was just two feeders, at the rate they were being emptied it would have cost me about £14 a week ( 7 x £2 peanuts+suet) and so home production has commenced....:D

Surely it is a bit early to be feeding - the hedgerows round here are still full of hips, haws, sloes and even a few straggling blackberries. Plenty of seedheads on teasles and other plants and plenty of worms and insects still active on or near the surface.

I do feed as required during the winter months and early spring but my understanding has always been not to feed when natural food is available.

As for grey squirrels, I go to great lengths to make sure that they cannot get at the bird feed that I put out and had a major sense of humour failure earlier this year when they gnawed through the plastic lids of various livestock feed bins - steel bins and traps resolved the problem but if you want to maintain a healthy songbird population and avoid getting the trees stripped their numbers need to be controlled. If you don’t have the appetite to cull them (I take no pleasure in doing it), just don’t encourage them by giving them access to food.
 
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Toddy

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We're lucky in that there are still red squirrels around, albeit nowhere near the numbers that there used to be. The greys haven't had a good year, and I can't pretend to be overly sad about that. The magpies took out their dreys, and the rooks and cats were persistent too. I suppose anything with numbers to be noticed by predators will end up on the menu though.

The blasted squirrels ate their way into one of my plastic bins too. Fortuately all I was keeping in that one was bags of specialised compost (orchids, etc.,) and the vermiculite that I use to overwinter bulbs and corms. Still damned annoying though.

M
 

Laurentius

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Aug 13, 2009
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The other day I was awakened by a noise in my kitchen (on top foor of a four storey block) and just caught sight of a squirrel as it escaped back out of the open window, there is a tree outside but it would be one heck of a jump, but apparantly not to the average squirell.
 

saxonaxe

Nomad
Sep 29, 2018
261
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Pembrokeshire
" I do feed as required during the winter months and early spring but my understanding has always been not to feed when natural food is available.

If I lived in town or a city I would understand that putting out food might draw wild birds away from the natural beneficial foods which they would feed their young, but here it's October and the breeding season has long gone and all the young have fledged. Anyway, personally I'm not a great one for managing Nature with timed feeding programmes. If the birds want to eat wild food around here at this time of year they can. If not they can eat what I put out.
 

Toddy

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Jan 21, 2005
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S. Lanarkshire
I feed the birds all year round. I change it through the seasons though. I don't feed peanuts if there's any chance of nestlings, and fat balls seem to go rancid in the heat, so it's mixed seeds and wireworms and sunflower seeds through much of the spring and summer. Just now it's back to peanuts, fatballs and the mixed seeds again. As it gets colder I'll put up fat blocks and put out wireworms too.
The woodpeckers like the fat blocks, so do the long tailed tits, while the robins, wrens and blackbirds love the wireworms.

I think it is place/site dependent whether you feed or not, and what you feed or not.
Round here has become very suburban, and if folks don't feed the birds, then many of them go hungry.

The confusion over feeding ducks bread or not resulted in waterfowl starving to death in parks. I think the final decision was that so long as it's not the only thing folks feed them, then some bread is better than no food.
 

Nomad64

Full Member
Nov 21, 2015
1,073
582
UK
I think this might make an interesting kind of sub-forum if there's enough input.

Encouraging wildlife doesn't need to mean that you turn your front garden into some out of place looking suburban jungle, or that you can't discourage pest species, like rats, while giving a helping hand to hedgehogs.
I think it just needs a little bit of benevolent tolerance and quiet effort.

I started a thread earlier in the week about the butterflies feeding on the ivy that I let grow up and over a fence. It's a beautiful green wall, but another neighbour rigorously roots it out because she wants to paint her fence every year. Thankfully that side of the garden is where I grow roses tangled through with honeysuckle, so her need to paint doesn't clash with my need to grow :)

I don't think mine's been painted in twenty. It doesn't need it, it's dry and protected hidden behind the ivy :)
I do check. It's also full of birds all year long. From the nests in Spring and Summer, to the wrens rustling through it just now on the hunt of spiders and the like. In a few weeks it'll be covered in ripening berries and the woodpigeons will descend (if I'm quick I'll get a basketful of berries for dye before they guzzle the lot) It's used as a roost by the long tailed tits and the robins through Winter too.

You know those wildflower filled verges, roundabouts and central reservations on our roads ? well, some of those mixes aren't native ones, they're colourful ones. It's not rocket science though to get hold of native seed mixes, or make them. Even a small patch, along a fence line, or tucked in a quiet corner, can make a huge difference. It becomes a pleasure to recognise native species coming up, flowering, seeding, year after year, and even more so when the insects and invertebrates appear too. Even just planting a few native 'weeds' like yarrow, or foxgloves, in a pot or flowerbed really does help a lot. It doesn't have to be stinging nettles or dandelions and fireweed.

I wondered about helping to create our own native mix of plants that grow in abundance near us ? It's the wrong season to do that really now though, hopefully I'll mind next year.

However, companies like this one make it easy
https://www.wildflower.co.uk/?mc_cid=3c3d9a6340&mc_eid=1ca6ad6d56
(no benefit to me, simply that I've bought seed and been very pleased :) )

I admit I'm tempted to suggest to Himself that we don't bother cutting the grass next year and just leave it and see what comes up :D Well, maybe just cut the edges to keep things within reason and the paths clear to get in and out.

Anyhow, my ramble's over :) and I think I'm going to go and pester Scott to come and add to the thread; he helps the hedgehogs, feeds up the underweight ones until he's sure they have sufficient reserves to get them safely through Winter :cool:

M

Great idea for a thread.

There is a special place in hell (right next to the bit reserved for the inventor of plastic grass for lawns) for the muppets who thought that using alien “wildflowers” (admittedly very pretty ones) on road verges rather than native ones was a good idea. Native insects have evolved in harmony with the native wildflowers and if they flower at the wrong time or the flowers are the wrong design for their mouthparts then they will starve. Just because some exotic species are heaving with butterflies and bees doesn't mean that they are suitable for all insects. No wondor insect numbers have crashed.

We’ve been trying to manage our holding as a wildlife habitat and have received useful advice from the local Wildlife Trust and a couple of friends who work for other WTs - they got married recently and the wedding favours they handed out were boxes of native wildflower seeds! :emoji_blossom:

I’m still getting my head around the logistics of (re)creating traditional wildflower meadows of the kind that made up most of the upland pastures before agriculture practices changed post war. There is much more to encouraging wildflowers than just not mowing. Wildflowers thrive on poorly nourished soil where grass struggles but if grass is allowed to grow and is not mowed (or grazed) then the build up of nutrients in the soil from the decomposing vegetation will fertilise the soil and encourage grass which will outcompete the wildflowers.

These meadows were traditionally grazed and/or used for hay with the result that the grass was kept under control and the nutrients removed - admittedly, the woolly mowers do leave fertiliser behind but not as much as if the meadow went ungrazed or unmowed.

It is very much an art rather than a science and the timing of any cutting or grazing will impact on the plant species that flourish. I collected large quantities of yellow/hay rattle this year which will be sowed in the next few weeks - this is semi-parasitic of grass and if it gets established will help suppress the grass and gives other wildflowers a chance. Its an annual though so if you cut or graze early before it seeds, you will not get any next year. I spoke to a local meadow guru and his advice was just experiment!

:)
 
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Toddy

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Mod
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The other day I was awakened by a noise in my kitchen (on top foor of a four storey block) and just caught sight of a squirrel as it escaped back out of the open window, there is a tree outside but it would be one heck of a jump, but apparantly not to the average squirell.

Don't underestimate the wee blighters. They'll sneak into your attic and happily chew their way through anything that takes their fancy. Electric wiring seems to be a favourite.
I watched one run up my neighbour's roughcast wall and jump off a good twenty feet to my rowan tree...where it promptly attacked the fat ball feeder with vim and vigour.

It can be fun trying to frustrate them, make them puzzle out how to get to something.

I admit I did find this gif thing funny :)

giphy.gif
 

Nomad64

Full Member
Nov 21, 2015
1,073
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UK
If I lived in town or a city I would understand that putting out food might draw wild birds away from the natural beneficial foods which they would feed their young, but here it's October and the breeding season has long gone and all the young have fledged. Anyway, personally I'm not a great one for managing Nature with timed feeding programmes. If the birds want to eat wild food around here at this time of year they can. If not they can eat what I put out.

FWIW its October where I am too! ;)

Fair enough, there are usually at least two schools of thought on any given subject - I will start feeding again soon but I’m a very long way from any towns or cities and am more focussed on creating a sustainable habitat, hedges, meadows, woods, ponds etc, which will sustain a healthy wildbird population rather than just feeding.

Its a fairly harsh environment at 1200’ in mid-Wales with plenty of ravens, kites, buzzards, owls, sparrowhawks, goshawks, peregrines and kestrels to keep the smaller birds and mammals in their toes. The tawny owl that lives in the old sycamore tree seem to have driven off the swallows this year though something took what looked like a long eared owl in the woods. Curlews are around during early spring but they have a hard job successfully rearing chicks.

Happy to let nature do its thing and just provide a bit of a helping hand where needed and I’m afraid that includes culling the greys which go to supplement the corvids and buzzards diets.
 
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Robson Valley

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Nov 24, 2014
8,706
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McBride, BC
Nomad64: different birds, same story here. Climax bird species here in winter are the Ravens.
They live on road kill unless the snow is too deep to cover it so I clear a track in my front yard snow and put out dry dog food.
They got used to me a few years back. I could talk to them but still 5-10m distant. I got maybe a dozen?
One was bigger than a goose. Very impressive bird.
The wolves/coyotes/lynx/bobcats will dig out the road kills (white tail deer, mule deer, elk, moose and grouse).
Then we are sort of back to "normal!"

The Ravens have quit talking for the year, 2019. Nobody will say a word until the end of February (day length?).

They do kill and eat any smaller birds such as whole flocks of Bohemian wax wings but more by opportunity, I think.
 

Wander

Settler
Jan 6, 2017
509
562
Here There & Everywhere
What do your grass snakes eat, Wander? Can you enhance prey habitat?

They eat frogs and toads. And there are plenty of those about too.
To be honest my putting down pieces of corrugated iron is not to increase the grass snakes (they are already there - I've seen them) but to give them somewhere to sun and warm themselves so I can see them easier!
But where they currently are I'd say they have more chance of attracting mice and water shrews.
Which are just as vital. So I'll leave them where they are and see what comes along.

I have also thought of buying a bag of mixed meadow wild flower seed and scattering that about.
 

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