The Wildlife Garden in December

The beginning of December saw a change in the weather in South Shropshire with cool, damp and very misty conditions here at the start of the month. The mist at one point was so dense that I could not see the bottom of my garden – not ideal for wildlife watching!  The foggy conditions prevailed but it was pleasantly mild for the time of year and as we moved through the first week of December the numbers of birds in the garden increased even more.  Many different species were using the feeders and some were feeding on the dropped seeds on the ground.  Chaffinches here were in abundance and one was seen eating seeds from the plant Phlomis outside my office window – something I had not seen before.  Sadly there were no siskins with us which was a disappointment after the large numbers we had last winter.  Siskin is one of favourite bird species so I am hoping to see some in the New Year!  A single mallard visited the wildlife pond on the 2nd of the month but it flew off quickly. Also a singleton was the fieldfare feeding in the back garden for most of the month. This seems to happen every year – a lone fieldfare hanging around after the large flock has left us.  I like to think it is the same bird that does this every winter – a canny bird who knows where the food is!  Along with him was a good group of all male blackbirds feeding on the fallen apples. One male siskin did visit on the 7th – a bright cold morning – but was seen infrequently.

The second week of the month began with very cold and frosty conditions, and I began to feel that winter had really arrived. A large flock of fieldfares sat around in the beech tree at the bottom of my garden and at least forty birds were counted. The next couple of days were very sunny, cold and icy but the frosty garden looked wonderful, plus the big wildlife pond was completely frozen. Cold weather continued this week and a large number of blackbirds, again all males, were now eating the fallen apples in the orchard. There were still no bramblings, much to my disappointment, but large numbers of tits and finches were feeding all around the garden. This week saw some of the coldest weather conditions here for some years with icy winds but clear sunny skies. On the 15th of the month a buzzard sat around in the garden trees all day, the first we have seen in the garden for a long time as red kites are more common than buzzards around us now.

The third week of the month continued with the now familiar bright, sunny, cold weather plus there was plenty of frost but still no snow.  No mammals were seen in the garden at all with the exception of a huge rabbit which I hope I can tempt out before vegetable gardening begins!  All the usual birds were still feeding but not in huge numbers and all the winter thrushes had moved on with the exception of the lone fieldfare. Goldfinch and greenfinch numbers were good but there were still no siskins or bramblings. This week a fox scat was found in the back garden – the first for some time. The clear, sunny, cold weather continued and the first yellowhammer seen in the garden for some time sat on the long hedge for a while which was lovely to see.

The last week of December continued cold and clear with large numbers of finches with us.  Also a gang of long-tailed tits arrived at the start of this week and  visited the feeding table every day as well as the small tray outside the kitchen door.  The weather was now remarkably mild for the time of year but a little rain and mist at times made conditions more wintery. On the 22nd of the month a grey heron appeared in the garden and stayed with us for a couple of days. It was not seen to catch anything but seemed quite content to hang around in the orchard. When disturbed it flew over the hedge into the field next door and then popped straight back again, but by the 24th it had left us. The month ended with no mammals around but plenty of all our usual tits and finches, blackbirds in abundance around the garden, a yellowhammer sitting on the hedge top daily, regular visits from a treecreeper and several greenfinches using the bird feeders every day.

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The Wildlife Garden in November

November was very much a month for garden birdwatching as several species I hadn’t seen for while appeared in the garden, and as the month started with overcast and cool weather, including heavy rain and wind at times here in South Shropshire, I was happy to spend time birdwatching from the warmth of the house!  The usual garden birds were feeding here with blue and great tits in abundance and a single coal tit daily, plus there was a small flock of goldfinches around the garden and our regular marsh tits. A great spotted woodpecker was seen here at the beginning of the month – the first I have recorded since August.  On the 2nd there was a grey squirrel in the garden – again the first for ages!  On the 6th of the month a small flock of mixed tits was seen feeding in the garden at the back of the house and I was able to get good view of the species. As well as the usual tits that we see here there was a treecreeper and a goldcrest amongst the them.  Also that day the soft hoot of a bullfinch was heard in the garden – again not seen or heard for some time here.  The end of the week was cold and drizzly and a sparrowhawk – also not recorded for a while – was seen briefly in the garden.

Marsh Tit

The second week of the month continued to be very autumnal and overcast with some rain and wind. There were very few redwings or fieldfares around and not many birds were using the bird feeders outside my office window. Around the local area though, there was an enormous flock of woodpigeons – well over fifty birds – but they didn’t visit the garden. No mammals were seen this week at all but along with the usual bird species were a couple of pheasants and, rather more welcome, a pair of red legged partridges – the latter a bird I am very fond of!   On the 11th a snipe visited the garden.  We have had this wonderful bird here before, albeit only ever briefly in the garden near the big pond. This bird few off fairly quickly into the field next door but it was still great to see it!  On the 14th of the month there was a sudden change in the weather- the milder weather we were experiencing changed to cold and damp as temperatures dropped a little.  This change heralded the arrival of the fieldfares! A large flock appeared in the garden and very quickly finished off all the hawthorn berries in our little patch of woodland.  A few redwings also put in a brief appearance and it wasn’t long before all the berries around the garden had disappeared. The weather at this point was quite mild for November but was also damp and overcast and there was still no sign of any mammals around us. The winter thrushes didn’t hang about – they seemed to arrive en masse and then all move off together, when all the berries had been eaten.


The third week of the month was surprisingly mild and at times quite bright!  The large numbers of winter thrushes around us had clearly eaten all the local berries and moved on. Two marsh tits were seen in the garden every day which was some compensation as this is one of my favourite birds.  A huge rabbit appeared in the big meadow at the start of the week and the unusually mild temperatures saw a small tortoiseshell butterfly around the house on the 16th.  A couple of days later the temperature dropped again and a very cold wind meant that autumn was turning into winter!  A house mouse made a nest in my office cupboard – it was heard but not seen and I left it to it’s own devices and it disappeared a couple of days later!  On the 18th we had a beautiful kestrel around the garden – a species not seen here for a while and a few winter thrushes returned to polish off any remaining berries but they had mostly all now gone. There was one remaining fieldfare in the back garden on the 18th – this happens every year here and I often wonder if it is the same bird that returns and hangs around – with so many apple trees in the garden here and other shrubs with berries too, his winter supply of food is pretty much guaranteed! On the 21st of the month the weather became overcast and dull with some heavy rain in the morning. The single fieldfare was still around the garden and seemed happy to polish off any apples remaining.

The start of the last week of the month was bright sunny and not too cold!  There were good numbers of tits and finches feeding around the garden but no sign of bramblings which was very disappointing.  A single redwing and a few fieldfares were still eating apples but largely the winter thrushes seemed to have moved on.  The first grey squirrel for months appeared on the 23rd and as November came to an end we experienced a change in the weather with some rain – the first for some time. However it was still mostly mild and bright, and we still had a few fieldfares in the garden and large numbers of tits – blue, great, marsh and coal!  The month ended bright, sunny and mild until the 29th which was very atmospheric with mist and weak sunshine breaking through.  We moved into December with two regular marsh tits in the garden every day but still no sign of any bramblings!

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The Wildlife Garden in October

Cornus Autumn Colours

The beginning of October was typically cool and damp at the beginning of the week – quite unlike other Octobers here in South Shropshire which are sometimes warm and sunny!  One of the local red kites flew back and forth low over garden a few of times and a female sparrowhawk was also seen in the garden this week. Our regular small garden birds were starting to return, especially tits and finches, and there were several long-tailed tits feeding around the garden shrubs and trees. A few large dragonflies continued to hawk around the big pond but butterflies were absent. Several blackbirds, all males, were feasting on the fallen apples in the back garden but there was a distinct lack of females! No greenfinches were recorded at all but a few juvenile goldfinches appeared and were happily feeding in the garden on teasel seeds.  On the 7th of the month we had rain – the first we had seen for several weeks – but not really enough be useful. The weather was dramatic though and again we experienced stormy skies and huge clouds over the surrounding hills.  Autumn had not really made an impact yet though and there was very little leaf colour apart from a beautiful Cornus shrub, as the weather still very mild.

A regular nuthatch

The weather in the second week of the month was still good – being both mild and sunny at times.  There were fewer birds feeding around the garden but the goldfinches were present in good numbers with many feeding on the teasel seedheads. No mammals were seen but there was evidence of a visiting fox with regular scats around the meadow and in the long garden from time to time.   The single moorhen was still with us on the big pond but no wild mallard appeared which is unusual at this time of year.  On the 13th we had a beautiful warm sunny day with lovely misty views over the adjacent field.  The weather became more windy and cool towards the end of the week but it was still bright and the garden began to glow with autumn colours.  There was no sign yet of migrant redwings although they were being seen elsewhere in Shropshire. Other bird numbers began to increase including the long tailed tits which were now using the feeders, but in general bird numbers were low.  There were no butterflies around the garden now but a single bank vole continued to pick up sunflower hearts from under the feeders. On the 14th a handsome female sparrowhawk visited the bird feeders but left without a catch.

Knapweed still in flower

The third week of October saw more mild and quite sunny weather but there was very little rain and very little leaf fall so far this autumn.  Most of the trees in the garden were still fully clothed with green leaves and very little colour change. The oaks and hawthorns were starting to colour up slightly but in general everything was still green and lush. A few large dragonflies were hawking around the big pond and over the pond in the field next door but with no real rain for some time, pond water levels were exceptionally low for the time of year. Just a few late butterflies were seen this week but only one red admiral noted. A few common knapweed were still well in flower around the garden, which added a little colour to the wildflower meadows. The 18th   was a lovely bright sunny day and a small flock of redwings was noted in front of our little patch of woodland, plus the first marsh tit for ages was seen feeding in the front garden. A single green veined white butterfly was also recorded.  The 20th was dank and cool but there was still no rain.  Huge numbers of redwings flew over the garden from the east along with a good number of starlings – a bird rarely seen here. The weather became cool and windy as we moved through the week and leaves were starting to show signs of colouring up, especially on the oaks and hawthorns in and around the garden, plus the hazel hedges were glowing with yellow and orange.

Starlings in the Mist

At the end of the last week of September the first fieldfares arrived and immediately the ripe berries in the big hawthorns began to disappear. However no redwings or fieldfares were yet eating our holly berries and apart from a relatively small number of winter thrushes it was quite quiet in the garden.  The month ended with the usual tits and finches here but few other birds apart from regular nuthatches and a coal tits.  A single mistle thrush perched on the overhead wires in the back garden on the 27th and more redwings and fieldfares over but there was a distinct lack of mammals here.  The month ended with bright and breezy weather and hopefully the promise of some autumn colour in the trees around us.   

Red Admiral Butterfly

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The Wildlife Garden in September

The first week of September started with warm sunshine and there were still lots of large dragonflies around the wildlife pond.  The garden birds however, were now quieter now apart from the house martins which were feeding young in the nest cup outside the kitchen. Large numbers of house martins and swallows were feeding over the garden on the second of the month due to the large numbers of invertebrates that emerge from the meadow grass there.  The most common butterfly around the garden was still the green-veined white, but both comma and red admiral were also noted from time to time.  A single bank vole was seen most days picking up sunflower hearts from under the bird feeders outside my office window and later in the month it was joined by a second.  On the 6th two young house martins were seen being fed by one of the adult birds up at the nest cup. I was so pleased to see at last that house martins had nested successfully with us for the first time and I really hope we will see them again next year!  The weather at the end of the week was cool and stormy with a huge electric storm on the 5th and amazing clouds into the evening and overnight.

At the start of the second week the young house martins were very visible in the nest cups and being fed frequently. A single jay was seen in the garden on the 7th with an acorn in its beak but was not seen again which was unusual as it is a common species here on account of the oak woodland on our boundary. Also that day a chiffchaff seen feeding in the alder buckthorn outside my office window.  On the 9th the weather became cooler and damper and butterfly numbers were lower although there were still a few green veined whites around. On the 10th a large number of house martins were seen flying past the nest and looked as if they were trying to encourage the young to leave! The parent birds were still at the nest every day and feeding the youngsters frequently. The 14th of the month was warm and sunny but there were now very few butterflies around the garden.  A tawny owl was seen flying across the garden at dusk on the 13th, 

As we moved into the third week of the month the weather became cooler and overcast but there was no rain.  All the usual birds were feeding and the house martins were still using the nest cups – and frequently visiting the two young in the nest.  Both swallows and martins were still feeding over the garden with plenty of martins around which is unusual here – swallows are often more numerous here.  Several pied wagtails sat about on the house roof over the next few days and the weather became cool, windy, and quite autumnal.  Youngs birds started to frequent the feeders especially young goldfinches which were also making use of the teasels in the garden. On warmer days red admirals fed from the Verbena bonariensis which has established itself in the vegetable garden, and green veined whites were common there too.  On one afternoon a hummingbird hawkmoth spent quite some time feeding there.  Blackbirds started to eat the fallen apples in the orchard and overhead a red kite passed low over the garden several times every day. A couple of dandelions were in flower in the long garden with red admiral and whites taking advantage of the nectar.  At the end of the garden the big holly bush there was full of berries which bodes well for the winter thrushes if the blackbirds don’t get them first! The young martins left the nest, encouraged out by frequent visits by other house martins passing by – an amazing sight to watch! Only the odd swallow remained to feed above the garden.

The last of the month week was cold and overcast with drizzle but no proper rain.  All the usual early autumn birds were returning to the feeders including several nuthatches. On the 24th a wonderful hummingbird hawkmoth was photographed in the vegetable garden feeding on Verbena bon   The 26th was cool damp and windy and very autumnal!  The bank vole continued to pick up sunflower hears under the bird feeders and goldfinch numbers started to build up with lots of juveniles around. The weather continued to be cool and overcast and no butterflies seen around the garden.  The month finished with the bank vole being joined by a second and the borders were brightened by Japanese anemones in full flower, hopefully for a couple of weeks yet.

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The Wildlife Garden in August

The Long Mynd, Shropshire

August began with some very cool weather but the house martins, which are now using the garden regularly, were in and out of the nest cups on the wall and seemed to be investigating the possibility of using them, although it is rather late in the season.  Several swallows were also feeding around and over the garden, presumably the family from the nest in the front porch which was really successful this year with two good broods of six each time.  There were still very few butterflies around the garden with only the occasional green-veined white or red admiral, although the gatekeepers were still fairly abundant. Later in the week I saw one painted lady and one comma feeding on the late flowers of Buddleia.  Lots of young blue tits continued to feed around the garden and to use the bird feeders and the resident female mallard plus a small juvenile mallard were on the pond daily. No bank voles seen at all this week.  As the week progressed huge numbers of house martins began to feed around the garden, especially over the Big Pond.  This happens to some extent every year but this was the most we had seen here for several years. On the 5th of the month, house martins were seen again going into the nest cups and it looked as though they might be feeding a late brood.  If so this would be the first time house martins have nested here in 17 years!

Comma on Verbena bonariensis

As we moved into the second week of the month temperatures increased and the weather was warmer with clear blue skies. Although this was pleasant I was keen to see some rain as we had had none for many weeks. There was still a lack of the usual butterfly species around although a single common blue was seen on the 11th plus one painted lady, but little else except for the still abundant gatekeepers and a few second brood meadow browns in the longer grass areas. Bird numbers too were low in general but swallows were still using the nests at the front of the house and house martins were now seen to be taking food into the nest cups at the back of the house.  It’s been a long wait but worth it!!  Two greenfinches were around the feeders for a while and a single juvenile was also seen.  The weather slowly warmed to become very hot and sunny and on the 5th of the month young house martins were seen looking out of the nest cups.  The swallows were also  very cramped in the nest at the front of the house but left on the 14th although they were still actively being fed by the adult birds. In all there was lots of activity from hirundines all around the garden!

Bullfinch feeding on Scabious seeds

At the start of the third week of August the young swallows were still very active in the front porch and were often sitting in the climbing rose there, although some preferred to continue to sit on the porch shelf.  All six youngsters left the nest at the beginning of the week although they continued to roost overnight there for some time. The weather was mainly overcast with a cool wind this week and also a little rain which was much needed in the garden. In general though the garden was quiet with very little wildlife about although two bullfinches were heard from time to time. A small flock of goldfinches came together in the garden, feeding on the knapweed seeds in the big meadow and several large dragonflies were busy around the big pond. The swallows and martins were feeding over the pond every day although the weather continued to be overcast with a little drizzly rain. Young tits were still using the feeders daily, especially blue tits which seem to have had a good breeding year here.  Around the garden borders many of the wildlife friendly flowering plants were going over very early as the weather became cool, damp and overcast.  On the 22nd of the month a very beautiful female roe deer spent some time wandering in the garden before disappearing into the adjacent woodland.

Red Admiral Butterfly

As the end of the month approached there were still a large number of young tits using the feeders and the house martins continued to visit the nest cups to feed the young.  On the 23rd we had our last glimpse of a spotted flycatcher on the wires over the back garden. And at last there were very few butterflies around!  It was also nice to see a single red admiral on the 26th and on the 26th I encountered the first sparrowhawk in the garden for ages as it whistled past me at head height in the big meadow! The weather continued to be damp but sunny at times and the month ended with few butterflies about and an empty porch until next year. A family party of long tailed tits was seen at the very end of the month and we entered September with hopefully a late brood of house martins on the way!

A visit from a Roe Deer!
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The Wildlife Garden in July

Spotted Flycatcher with Small White Butterfly

July is always a lovely month in my wildlife garden and this year was no different with spotted flycatchers nesting here this summer. I was able to watch these wonderful, charismatic little birds around the garden every day with one permanently on the nest and the second of the pair feeding, although I never witnessed a changeover.  All around the garden lots of wildflower species were in flower but meadow cranesbill in particular was still much in evidence, creating a huge swathe of blue in one area of the garden right outside my office window which was wonderful to look out on! Oxeye daisies were also flowering well – especially right outside the house back door – again a beautiful sight.  Elsewhere, there were large areas of hogweed in full flower These are left where they are as the flowers attract huge numbers of small invertebrates, which in turn provide food for chiffchaffs in the garden. A Juvenile great spotted woodpecker was seen on the 5th which was the first seen here for a while. As the week ended one of the flycatchers was always on the nest while the second bird could usually be seen in an oak tree nearby.

Meadow Cranesbill in full flower

In the second week of the month St John’s wort was flowering prolifically around the garden especially on the pond bank and in some of the nectar borders. Lady’s bedstraw and common knapweed were also both flowering well and attracting a wide range of invertebrates.  The common spotted orchids though were now over and setting seed.  However the long herbaceous borders were coming into flower and it seems they are going to make a good show this summer! The yellow flowered Centaurea is very tall as is the Echinops – both wonderful for summer butterflies.  Elsewhere in the garden more wildflowers were in bloom especially meadowsweet which has seeded and is flowering all around the garden now – in fact July seemed to be a good month for many of the wildflowers around the garden.  Lots of young goldfinches were seen feeding on the seeds of the sow thistle and both flycatchers were seen daily this week including one on the 15th with a white butterfly in its beak!


The third week of the month saw a complete change in the weather to a short heatwave! It was very hot, humid and dry. There were very few butterflies around, and no Vanessids at all – in fact it had been a very poor summer for butterflies so far with only a few browns in the meadow and the odd gatekeeper.  The flycatchers however were feeding young in the nest which was brilliant!. The wild mallard seem to have abandoned our pond and the moorhens had moved to the pond in the field next door.  Knapweed and St Johns wort continued to flower in the meadows, and the meadowsweet scented the air.  On the 18th I had a glimpse of a kingfisher by the Big Pond. 

Gatekeeper Butterfly

The last week of the month saw the weather back to ‘normal’ after the mini-heatwave. In fact by the 25th it was quite cool and windy! Two mallard reappeared on the pond -an adult female and a well grown youngster.  There was no sign of the flycatchers at the nest but on the 23rd several were seen around the garden in various places, especially by the pond and in the orchard, so presumably they had successfully fledged. The 25th of the month was quite cool and windy but lots of young tits were feeding around the garden and a pair of yellowhammers were seen on the hedge. The linnets, which appear to be nesting in the big meadow, were still with us but there was no great increase in the numbers of butterflies except for whites and no migrant species at all.  Excellent news though was that house martins seem to be investigating the nest cups we put up above the back door of the house seventeen years ago, and they are spending some time in the nest cups!  At the end of the month the weather was cooler again and by the 28th it was quite cold!.  A wren was seen again in the log pile in the copse when there had been a successful nest earlier this year, plus two juvenile greenfinches visited the feeders in the garden along with an adult male. At the front of the house the swallows were feeding a second brood (and dropping their poo sacs onto the car!) and the month ended with a lovely bright day on the 31st with lots of exciting wildlife all around the garden!

Juvenile Great Spotted Woodpecker

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The Wildlife Garden in June

June began with the moorhens eggs hatching and the small black spidery legged youngsters on the pond banks and in the water. Sadly a heron was seen to take at least one of them but the rest were soon at home and finding plenty of food.  The weather was generally cooler than it had been – overcast with light rain most days.  Lots of young birds were now fledging around the garden including the siskins but young blue tits and great tits were seen in abundance. A single bank vole continued to feed under the feeder outside my office window. Around the garden there was little in flower but in the big meadow buttercups were plentiful as was Sonchus – a creeping perennial weed but a good nectar and pollen source. Other than that the oxeye daisies started to flower promising a good show later in the month. Several great spotted woodpeckers were using the feeders and a willow warbler was singing all week – a bird not heard or seen in the garden for several years.

Young Swallows about to leave the nest

Common Spotted Orchids and Oxeye Daisies in the Meadow

In the second week of the month the weather was mainly overcast.  However our common spotted orchids were coming into flower all over the garden – possibly fewer that previous years but still a great show. Blackcap and willow warbler were both singing well at the start of the week but the young moorhens were down to just two.  There were very few butterflies in the garden but a single painted lady was seen and also silver y moth. Red admiral and brimstone were also seen later in the week. The Big Meadow was still mainly grass and buttercups, but there was the promise of lots of oxeye daisies.  The buds soon opened and by the end of the week they were flowering in profusion all around the garden as well as in the garden.  Very little was in flower in the long borders however. A single linnet was observed in the orchard on the 13thand the regular bank vole was still visiting daily to pick up discarded sunflower hearts under the bird feeder.

Bank Vole finding food under the bird feeders

The third week of June brought variable weather still but no rain.  The Big Meadow continued to grow and this year the grass was mainly Holcus – a lovely soft grass with a tinge of pink, giving the whole meadow a soft haze of colour. The Sonchus was now attracting a good number of insects as the bright yellow flowers appeared in abundance.  The non-native Fox and Cubs which has found way into the borders was flowering well in the long garden and attracting a range of small insects. Two juvenile chiffchaffs were seen around the pond in the field next door but on the 16th a spotted flycatcher was seen in the orchard. This is a lovely species that has bred in the garden here once before so I was delighted with this discovery! Further inspection from a distance with binoculars showed that it was likely to be using a using a small nest box on the front of our garden cabin. A little covert watching from a distance on the 17th revealed a flycatcher exiting the box and it was also seen around in the copse trees and especially in a large oak in the garden. Two Linnets continued to be seen daily in the long grass in the orchard.  Lots of yellow rattle began to flower around the garden – the most I have seen here for several years and by the end of the week four linnets were observed feeding daily on the seeds of the long grasses in the orchard.  By the end the week the flycatchers could be seen daily and were possibly incubating.   

Fox and Cubs

The last week of the month saw the beginning of a very hot spell of weather.  This brought a number of butterfly species to the garden but best of all, two hummingbird hawkmoths were seen feeding on the lavender in the back garden 22nd.  Also on the 22nd of the month the swallows in the front porch fledged.  A successful brood of six young was better than I expected and it was a delight to see them flying around the house and sitting on the wires over the garden at the back of the house. There were still very few butterflies around but the weather was warm and sunny which should bode well for some midsummer species.   The month ended with several young wagtails on the roof of the house, presumably from the pond in the field next door. At the very end of the month the weather became cooler and damper.  The linnets were clearly nesting in the orchard meadow and six young mallard appeared on the pond. As the weather improved the garden was full of small invertebrates which bodes well for the flycatchers when they hatch.

Spotted Flycatcher in the Apple orchard

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The Wildlife Garden in May

The weather was rather dull and overcast at the start of the first week of the May here in South Shropshire, but thankfully some brighter sunny weather came along. However it was all change again on the 9th – overcast, cool and windy with some rain forecast although this will be welcome as the garden is very dry indeed. Siskins were still with us and blackcap and chiffchaff were both singing well around the garden and from the woodland next door, plus a whitethroat sang daily from the field maple at the end of the garden. A song thrush too was singing every day and a distant mistle thrush was also heard regularly.  The moorhens were still using the big pond and male and female brimstone butterflies were recorded in the garden, plus a single holly blue was also seen. A wrens’ nest in the back garden at the base of our big hawthorn was very busy, with an adult obviously feeding young and a blackbird nest near the potting shed was constantly being visited by a male with food. Bluebells and stitchwort were beautifully in flower in our little piece of woodland and robins were seen taking food to a nest somewhere in the orchard.

Bluebells in the garden!


The second week of the month started with a few lovely warm, dry days. Several brimstone butterflies were still around the garden and bugle was flowering well in the damp areas close to the big pond, plus cow parsley was looking lovely I some of the shadier meadows. The weather became very cool on the 12th but the brimstones were still flying and orange tips were abundant in spite of the variable weather conditions. Blue tits were now feeding a brood in a nest box on the side of the potting shed and great tits were using a box on the side of the house. The Big Meadow was growing fast – a mixture of mainly Phleum and Holcus grasses plus lots of buttercups this year so quite a different mix of species from previous years. The swallows with the nest in the porch at the front of the house were very active but I was not sure if they were laying. The Big Pond was quiet but the moorhens were laying again as their nest was predated by crows. Three dunnocks were very busy in the garden and a kestrel was seen hovering over the Big Meadow on the 14th.

Young Moorhen waiting to be fed

The third week of May saw plenty of orange tips and brimstones still around the garden. All our usual birds including siskins were still with us and a single bank vole was seen most days underneath the bird feeder outside my window. A pair of bluetits was busy taking food to the nest box on the potting shed and finding plenty of food around the garden for the chicks. At the back of the house the garden was full of cow parsley which looked wonderful. On the 16th a single comma butterfly was seen but in general butterflies were still rather scarce.  The song thrush was singing again and a pair of red-legged partridges arrived in the garden on the 17th and a whitethroat singing and seen in the long garden. Blackcap, chiffchaff and whitethroat were singing every day which was wonderful and a male house sparrow appeared in the garden on the 18th which is always a pleasure here!  Around the big pond there were several beautiful demoiselles but no other dragonflies were seen.

Comma Butterfly

The last week of May saw cool and overcast weather. On the morning of the 23rd an adult treecreeper, with recently fledged young, was seen in the big hawthorn tree on the border of my vegetable garden – a wonderful thing to witness as they had obviously just left the nest. The first swifts of the summer were seen over the garden on the 23rd and later a good number of house martins.  Even more were seen the following day.  On the 26th the first common spotted orchid was seen in flower and a speckled wood butterfly roamed the fruit garden, plus a male brimstone fluttered around the alder buckthorn.  A few damsel flies began to appear around the big pond and a mallard with several ducklings also appeared as if from nowhere! Thankfully they exited the garden via a hole in the fence to occupy the luxury of the large pond in the field next door, rather than occupying more cramped conditions in my garden! The month ended a little much needed rain but certainly not as much as we need.

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The Wildlife Garden in April

The First Swallow

The first week of April was wonderfully bright and sunny but very cold here in South Shropshire. Overnight the snow that was covering the Long Mynd, the Shropshire Hill that I can see from my office window, had melted, and everything felt more spring-like with primroses beautifully in flower in the garden, and cowslips well on the way in spite of the cool temperatures. Amongst other birds a single long-tailed tit was seen in the garden – the first of these sweet little characters for many weeks – but there was still no chiffchaff singing. However a variety of finches were using the bird feeders, including the now resident siskins, and a single colourful jay was seen on several occasions.  The 5th of the month was very cold and windy but then the weather warmed a little and there were plenty of birds around the garden but no mammals, not even our resident bank voles were seen.  A pair of greenfinches were welcome visitors in light of their current decline, but still no marsh tit which I fear we may have lost from the area.  Elsewhere in the garden the big pond was getting visits from a mallard pair, although they were also using the large pond in the field next door and hopefully will choose that as their nest site as there is less disturbance there.

A rare garden visitor – House Sparrow!

The second week of the month saw the arrival of chiffchaffs with two singing from our tiny woodland area, and blackcaps too arrived at the same time, and these two species really heralded the arrival of spring!  The big pond, without the mallards around, soon attracted a pair of moorhens – our previous breeding pair I would like to think as they seemed very familiar with the garden.  We saw a single male house sparrow this week – a very unusual bird for us – and he made brief visits to the sparrow nest boxes under the eaves.   Butterflies around the garden were just three species – orange tip in abundance, brimstone which breeds on the alder buckthorn outside my office window, and a single peacock.  Orange tip is always seen in my vegetable garden where we have flowering forget-me-not which the orange tip loves to feed on.  One disappointment this week was the lack of life in the Big Pond.  Tadpoles were growing quickly in the Marshy Pond but only a few great-crested newts were seen in the larger one.  Around the garden boundaries and in Dormouse Wood though, greater stitchwort was everywhere amongst the bluebells, and masses of stitchwort and red campion was flowering on our local roadside verges.  There was no sign of ‘our’ swallows but half a mile away our neighbours’ pair had returned on the 14th – a couple of weeks earlier than usual. The warm spring weather continued to the end of the week.

The third week of the month saw the moorhen pair starting to build their nest amongst the reeds in the big pond, in the exact same spot they used last year. All the usual bird species were seen around the garden and a single grey squirrel was a frequent visitor– the first for some time. There were good numbers of chaffinches in the garden, the males colouring up beautifully.  Several dunnocks were seen in the garden daily and two coal tits used the feeders frequently.  On the 19th one of our swallows returned, flying up to the nest site in the front porch!  The next day he was sitting on the wires over the back garden in his usual spot!  A second appeared the next day in the late afternoon and joined the first on ‘their’ wire over the back garden. There was then a little investigation of the nest site and the male then perched on the apex of the house in his usual spot, singing beautifully.

Moorhens’ nest in the usual spot

On the 22nd of the month there were several eggs in the moorhen nest.  Chiffchaff and blackcap were still singing all around the garden and the pair of swallows, sometimes with a third, were seen around the house daily and feeding over the farmland around us. One of our bank voles reappeared which pleased me!  I see them and feed them every day and I would hate to think that they had left us!  On the 24th there were 10 house martins feeding over the garden and three greenfinches using the feeders. Sadly at the end of the week the moorhens’ nest, which was quite close to the pond bank, was predated, possibly by the local carrion crows.  However they immediately moved to the middle of large pond in the field next door which will give them much better protection as there are overhanging willow trees there and less easy access to predators. 

Brimstone butterfly egg laying on Alder Buckthorn.

The month ended with the cowslip meadow in the back garden in full flower and common spotted orchid leaves showing in all the grassy areas of the garden. It certainly looks like the garden will be very colourful in the early summer here!

The Cowslip Meadow

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The Wildlife Garden in March

Singing Siskin

March began with calmer, warmer weather than we had recently experienced, which was very welcome after the fierce storms of previous month and the weather was quite spring like on a few days at the beginning of the month!  The flowering currant bush in the garden at the back of the house was well in covered with scented pink flowers but initially there were no bumblebees visiting.  Several siskins were now feeding around the garden with two bright yellow males singing beautifully. There was still no sign of any frogspawn hatching in the small pond in spite of the spring like weather.  The local wild mallard pair visited the big pond on several occasions but showed no signs of being settled here. Through the first week of the month some essential work on our little copse of trees was completed.  This area was planted as a tree nursery before we acquired the house and garden and the saplings, all native species, had outgrown the area and were shading other more open parts of the garden.  The coppicing work was done with great care and the wood was stacked in various parts of the garden to create wildlife friendly log piles. All of the wild cherries were left as their blossom attracts a variety of insects in early spring plus a single young oak on one corner was left untouched, but other trees were coppiced to let in light to the ground beneath. It will be good to see the ground flora regenerate.  On the 6th of the month our local male moorhen returned to the big pond for the third year but there was no sign of the female this week. 

Peacock Butterfly nectaring on Primrose Flowers

 The second week of March began with quite cool and windy weather. For the first time in several weeks a sparrowhawk came through the garden – a very handsome individual with a very white breast.  The weather continued to be cool and windy and a male bullfinch was seen in the garden on the 10th  plus and a single red kite floated over the garden most days.  The 11th was a miserable, wet and windy day but there were large numbers of bluetits using the feeders and many chaffinches feeding on the ground beneath.  At lunchtime on the 11th the female moorhen appeared so we now have a pair here as we did last year. Hopefully they will breed successfully again!  Both birds trotted through the garden together and jumped into the big pond.  looking very contented and familiar with their surroundings!  On the 12th two pairs of beautiful siskins were still feeding in the garden but the moorhens had moved to the larger pond in the field next door.  A little flock of long-tailed tits visited every day and on the 14th of the month two queen bumblebees were seen in the nectar garden feeding on the flowering currant bush.

New Log Store

The third week of March began with a gorgeous male brimstone butterfly flying around the alder buckthorn shrub – their larval food plant, just outside my office window and then flying off across the Big Meadow.  One of the male siskins, singing beautifully from the top of the big hazel, was sometimes joined by the second and several females were around the garden this week.  The weather continued to be mild and sunny at times and primroses and violets were beautifully in flower down the lane outside my house. However there was still no sign of chiffchaff or blackcap around the garden and no chiffchaffs were heard down my lane or in the local woodland.  A blackbird though was singing most days and there was a wonderful skylark singing over the garden every day, usually visible in the clear blue sky. Under foot the garden, especially the big meadow, was very wet even though we have had no rain for some time.


The last week of the month continued to be warm, bright and very sunny and it was possible to believe that spring had arrived early.  Several butterflies were seen in the garden this week, especially speckled wood, and a peacock was seen nectaring on primroses in the copse. The mallard pair was still on the pond next door but sometimes visited our pond in the early mornings. All the usual birds were seen around the garden and bank voles were observed running from the back garden border into the cowslip meadow. There was still no sign of tadpoles though and I began to wonder if they had been eaten by great crested newts in the small pond or even by the moorhens.  As the week progressed the primroses in Dormouse Wood burst into flower and cowslips began to show in the cowslip meadow. On the 26th the first chiffchaff was heard and two were seen on the edge of Dormouse Wood plus a third was singing in the old hawthorn by the vegetable garden. A pair of robins was seen courtship feeding towards the end of the month, one taking food from the border I was tidying and daintily feeding the other on the other side of the nectar garden.

The month ended with a single bright jay in the garden plus a lovely male orange tip in the vegetable garden. feeding on wild forget-me-not flowers.  It certainly felt as though spring had arrived but as is likely in the South Shropshire Hills, possibly not for very long!

The First Brimstone of the Spring
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