Thursday, October 07, 2004

Welcoming Wildlife

Almost everyone seems to be talking about creating mini nature reserves or miniature eco-systems. So lets consider the possibilities.

Cheetahs have never known to harm man in all the 5,000 years they have been in contact. (advantage) Cheetahs never breed in captivity. Females don't lust after males they grow up with and may even go off strange males. Timing of the mating being crucial,the right week has to be chosen. (all advantages) Why can't kitty kats be the same? A friend of mine had twenty cats at one time, three generations.
Feeding. I assume they have to eat and since they aren't going to pick off any ready meals with two feet, that does present a problem.

Scaling downwards a bit to see what is possible:- toads , hedgehogs and squirrels will add interest to your plot and teach young ones about the fragility of eco-systems. Animals need food , water, shelter with imaginitive planting schemes and autumn is a good time to do this. Plant bushes that will be bursting with berries in winter - cotoneasters, holly, hawthorn and rowan - blackbirds and thrushes just love them.

Winter time animals find it difficult to find water so provide a waterhole. A pond would be ideal but a little birdtable or even an dustbin lid face down will do and see who visits.
In the summer dragonflies and damselflies will find a pond and a little later you should have frogs, water beetles, and newts taking residence. Make sure your pond has deep and shallow areas to make it easy for the animals to wade in and out. In spring add a log for dragonflies and other insects to lay their eggs.
Hedgehogs like frogs and toads think slugs are a tasty treat and provide a free slug control service! Leave out a dish of dog or cat food but not milk and bread which is bad for them. Hedgehogs are active from March to November but provide a home and warm shelter till warm weather shows.

Creepy crawlies are loved by various birds. Thrushes crack open and eat snails, starlings love daddy longlegs' larva and shrews munch grubs.
Slug pellets are verboten inside the nature reserve. In cold winter months treat birds to a handful of birdseed , a chopped apple or pear core ( Conference pears are particularly loved) and bread could mean the difference between life and death.
Set up the bird table clode to bushy cover to offer them protection from predators such as sparrow hawks. To prevent disease clean the table with boiling water and move it around the garden frequently. Sunflower seeds are favoured by greenfinches, bacon rind beloved by robins and goldfinches will spend hours picking out fine Nyjer seeds.
The greater the variety of food the greater the variety of birds will visit.Autumn is the best time to put up a bird or bat box on a tree or the side of the house. Place the box outside the reach of cats and facing north/north east so that the chicks don't become too hot.

Foxes also visit gardens and sometimes make their home under sheds and garden buildings.Although they can be a nuisance they will eat rats and feral pigeons. If you keep guinea pigs and rabbits outside make sure they are locked up else they'll end up on a fox's menu.

Plan summer garden displays with a lot of thought for encouraging wildlife.Honeysuckle, ivy, wisteria and flowers such as cornflower, Michealmas daisy and primrose, which attracts insects from hoverflies to bees and beetles.
Sedum (ice plant) and blackthorn are brilliant for butterflies and, honesty , ladies smock and dame's violet are great for orange-tipped butterflies and holly may tempt pretty holly blue butterflies into your reserve.

It's a bit like setting up murders by numbers so I am not sure what is being conserved in this case. I prefer furry animals to slimy beasties any day and hate the thought of inviting snakes to the garden. Maybe I'll just stick to insects and birds.

Tips picked out from various Sun bloggers and Thames Water - who knew techs could be such Forkheads.


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