The Wildlife Garden in March


The weather was yet again very variable and unseasonal at the start of the month of March, but in general it was cold and bright here in South Shropshire which was a pleasant change after the storms of February. Trips further afield from my Shropshire home at the start of the month gave me views of blackthorn and other Prunus species in full flower and also great views of a barn owl hunting, the first I have seen for some time. Back home in Shropshire a pair of local red kites continued to display over the fields surrounding my garden, at times they were low and very vocal. Lots of birds were feeding around the garden especially tits and finches and at least one of our tit boxes was occupied with a pair. This particular box is always the first to be used in spring. Two other tit boxes saw some interest, both from blue tits, and the pair of house sparrows we now have here were also checking out several potential nest locations! The front porch as usual wasaprilblogwren being investigated by a pair of wrens, although there was some robin activity there too plus a lovely flock of about 20 linnets was seen in our little copse of trees. Wet weather returned later in the first week of March though and more frog spawn appeared in two of our ponds, plus two new visitors – a pair of moorhens – took possession of the big pond at the end of the week. I am hopeful that they will stay around and breed here this spring.
The return of very wet and windy weather in the second week of the month was rather a disappointment and again parts of the garden were flooded but a few daffodils and primroses came into flower and brightened everything up. Both robins and wrens were still visiting the porch at the front of the house, so a robin nest box was placed in the hedge close by and roosting pockets, which wrens have used for breeding here in the past, were also placed strategically around the house. The porch is the one place where there is daily disturbance so my main task is to encourage these two species to nest a little further away where there is more chance of success. Lots of smaller birds including siskins were still feeding daily at the feeders and on the 13th a third moorhen appeared! The local red kites continued to display over the garden and surrounding fields and the house sparrows appeared to be checking out a variety of potential nest sites. Notable by their absence were bank voles, usually abundant in the garden here, but the saturated ground suggested that they had moved to drier locations further from the house.
The third week of March saw the moorhens well and truly settled in and one or more was seen every day, generally running rapidly around the garden like clockwork toys. Two local wild mallard also visited the ponds most days but conflict with the moorhens meant that they more aprilblogspadgeoften spent time on the pond in the field next door. On the 16th the weather was beautifully bright and sunny but the ground was still far too wet to attempt any gardening. The pair of house sparrows continued to sit on the hedges and were also seen investigating the house martins’ nest boxes under the eaves. Another bird seen frequently was the nuthatch, in fact a pair spent time on the feeders and they were also seen courtship feeding and visiting a nest box – the first time I have seen this here and a very positive sign for them breeding with us this year.  This month was very much dominated by the birds around – mammals were few and far between and it was only at the very end of the month that the first butterflies were seen – two peacocks initially and later a small tortoiseshell but no sign of brimstone which breeds in the garden on our alder buckthorn, planted especially for that purpose. Queen bumblebees however were plentiful and there were more than we would usually see, flying low all around the grassy areas looking for potential nest sites. In spite of a mainly very wet and windy March though, the last few days of the month brought a glimpse of spring as the first cowslips came in to flower. A heron, and on one occasion two herons, visited the pond every morning for the whole week and our hawthorn hedges bursting into leaf meant a haze of bright green appeared all around our boundaries and trees. With much anxiety all around us at present, the garden and it’s wildlife continued the be a refuge and a great source of solace in these difficult times.aprilblogcslips


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The Wildlife Garden in February

BullfinchprunusblogI spent the first part of February on the Island of Anglesey in North Wales, an area of the country I love and try to visit a couple of times every year. As you might expect in early February, the weather was not always conducive to long walks on the coast path but none the less a lot of time was spent outside in a biting wind with my binoculars and camera while wrapped up as warmly as possible! The first priority was to see the local red squirrels there, and I was lucky to see several just a short walk from where I was staying. The gardens of this large house are well managed but that does not mean they are devoid of wildlife. Up to four bullfinches were seen every day, feeding on the buds of a Prunus in the garden and large areas of short grass attracted feeding redwings and fieldfares.  There were also plenty of song and mistle thrushes around. Outside the garden curlews were abundant, collecting together at dusk every evening in an adjacent field. Perhaps the highlight of this trip though was an amazing encounter with a very visible male snow bunting in the car park of a local pub! Sadly choughs were not seen as it was Snow bunting blogdangerously windy at South Stack where I would normally find them. Once home again in my garden in South Shropshire, the week was dominated by bitterly cold weather but there were still lots of tits and finches around the bird feeders and a male sparrowhawk and female kestrel were regular visitors, plus a buzzard sat around in our little copse of trees on a daily basis. At the end of the week a small tortoiseshell butterfly was found inside the house and carefully relocated to the shelter of the wood store in the garden.
The second week of February saw some very bad weather here with a series of severe storms, the first of which came overnight on the 9th and 10th, with howling gales and rain that caused flooding and damage in many parts of the UK. We however were lucky enough to miss the very worst of it. We had a little snow on the 10th and a small flock of twenty redwings spent some time feeding in the garden and in the field next door. On the 9th, a glimpse of movement in the smallest of our ponds heralded the Frogspawnblog2arrival of several frogs and a large amounts of spawn appeared, our earliest for many years. All the usual bird species returned to the feeders after our time away, with goldfinch numbers building up and a pair of siskins visiting daily. There were also daily visits from a blue tit with a deformed, elongated beak, but it seemed to be coping very well and feeding along with other tits and finches on the bird feeders. As the week came to an end the promise of yet another storm and the possibility of some flooding in our house threatened.  Storm Dennis took us by surprise. We were expecting very windy weather but not the amount of rain that South Shropshire and the surrounding counties received. Living on the side of a hill has its advantages but the amount of rain that fell was extraordinary, and once again the garden was flooded after torrential rain overnight of the 15th and 16th, plus my ground floor office again had problems with water finding its way in. Our small local road became a torrent and in several places the tarmac was washed away. The wet conditions however encouraged the local frogs to continue spawning and we had more spawn than we have for several years. A single female house sparrow appeared on one of our hedges on the 18th – a most unusual bird for us and a male appeared the next day. On the 20th, while the weather was still very wet and windy, the local small birds were feeding desperately on the feeders and more than 40 blue tits were counted in the garden. On the 20th the wonderful sound of a mistle thrush singing was heard – he was in our ash tree braving the weather and was a delight to listen to – reminding me that spring will eventually come!
The last week of this awful month began with yet more rain and fierce, freezing winds. On a more positive note though there were a few primrose flowers appearing around the garden, creating a slightly spring-like feel in spite of the very cold weather. Several blue tits were seen investigating the nest boxes around the garden and the pair of house sparrows looked as though they might hang around as they continued to chirp from the top of the hedge. The large rambling jasmine on one of our house walls is looking like a potential nest site for them although the male was also seen investigating the house martin nest cups under the eaves.  On the 25th a barn owl was seen flying low around the garden and one was also seen a short distance from us a few days later. The month ended with more of the same as far as the weather was concerned although the occasional bit of sunshine made a difference! February ended with a huge flock of several hundred chaffinches feeding in the field next door. A few came into the garden, the males’ pink breasts brightening up what had been a very wet, cold and windy month. I am really looking forward to more spring like conditions in March!


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The Wildlife Garden in January


During the first week of the new year the weather in South Shropshire was mild and dry – almost spring-like at times – with catkins lengthening on the large hazel outside my back door.  A small flock of long-tailed tits fed daily at the feeders along with two nuthatches, a regular male great spotted woodpecker and all the usual birds for the time of year. Two tawny owls were heard most evenings and a male fox was also making a lot of noise from the field nextLttjanblog20 door. A house mouse was caught in a live trap in our living room one night having eaten, or taken away, a large quantity of chocolate coins wrapped in foil!! A second mouse was caught the next day. Tawny owls and foxes continued to be noisy at dusk and birds were plentiful but we had no siskins at all which was disappointing as this is one of my favourite birds.
As we moved into the second week of the month the weather was mild but quite overcast. The welcome dry weather after such a wet December continued, but only for a short while, and we had more rain overnight of the 8th/9th. Thankfully there was not as much as was forecast as the garden was still sodden and bog-like, especially the wildflower meadows and the vegetable garden. As the week progressed the garden slowly filled up with the local pheasants, mostly females, which were intent on clearing up any dropped food under the bird feeders. A treecreeper visited daily, usually roughly at the same time every day, and long tailed tits continued to use the feeders. Mammals were few and far between with no bank voles at all seen this week. The local song thrush was still singing every morning from the hawthorns on the garden boundary – a wonderful reminder that spring isn’t far away.
More rain and exceptionally windy weather came through on the 14th but thankfully there was no damage in the garden. However there were very few birds about for a day or two as a result of the fierce weather but all the usual species returned to the feeders once the wind died down.
After the wild weather calmer, freezing conditions prevailed and temperatures dropped making the nights very cold. The stars however were amazing for several nights in the clear still air – Shropshire is famed for its wonderfully clear night skies. During daylight Songthrushjanblog20hours male and female blackbirds continued to feed on any remaining berries around our hedges and shrubs, and our small window feeders were being filled up twice a day to accommodate the small birds using them, especially blue, great, coal and marsh tits. A few goldfinches and a robin also used these feeders once they got used to them. This week the hedges surrounding our garden were cut, creating thick shelter for nesting birds as spring approaches. Late in the week a buzzard was seen on the ground in the garden plus a female kestrel continued to visit us most days.
The last week of the month had variable weather, sometimes mild but mostly cold and bright with a heavy frost at dawn. The local song thrush was still singing well every morning, usually from the old hawthorns on our garden boundary, but no mistle thrushes were heard all month which was disappointing. A robin sang daily however and the hazel catkins continued to lengthen, while buds were breaking on the white flowering currant in the garden at the back of the house. Snowdrops were in full flower although the majority seem to have escaped to the roadside verge outside! The weather continued to be bright but windy, and buzzards and red kites were displaying over an adjacent field. A single raven was seen soaring and there was a feeling of spring in the air in spite of cool temperatures.
At the end of the month a trip to Anglesey beckoned where red squirrels, choughs and a selection of seabirds would hopefully be the main attractions.


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The Wildlife Garden in December

The weather was cold, frosty and bright at the beginning of the last month of the year which meant that there were plenty of fieldfares in my orchard feasting on apples. On the second day of the month a wonderful bird visited the garden – a woodcock. This bird has been seen in our garden a couple of times before for a fleeting stop over, and is always a joy to see. As the week progressed numbers of fieldfares in the orchard increased to about fifty, all concentrating on eating as many apples as they could in the shortest possible time! They were accompanied by six male blackbirds and there was a great deal of aggravation between these two species. On the 3rd of the month our first siskin showed up. I doubt we will reach the numbers we had last winter when more than sixty of these lovely little finches were counted here, but I will keep my fingers crossed for a few more as the winter progresses. Other unusual birds for us that came to feed in the garden were a couple of house sparrows which are rarely seen here. The redwings all seem to have moved on from our area having stripped from our trees the berries that they particularly relish – hawthorn and holly.

Through the second week of December the weather became more changeable. Temperatures were milder which was good, but it was also extremely windy and still incredibly wet everywhere – the garden was like a bog with the ground completely saturated and nowhere for the excess water to go. The natural pond in the field next to my garden was dectcblogcompletely full and the overflow was unable to cope with any more water, meaning that my vegetable garden was flooded. As a result of these conditions bank voles were very active here as their runs were obviously under water. Several voles were seen collecting up and hurrying off with sunflower hearts from under the bird feeders close to the house. Overnight on the 7/8 th a very windy, violent storm swept through South Shropshire and conditions continued to be wet, windy and cold for the next week. There was still no sign of redwings with only a handful of fieldfares feeding on the apples as the weather slowly warmed up a little. A single treecreeper was seen regularly on the old apple trees at the back of the house, searching for insects in the crevices of the bark with its long curved bill. On the 14th heavy, wet snow fell in the evening and the next morning the Long Mynd was white – a beautiful sight from our windows.

The third week of December continued cold and bright. Lots of small birds were feeding frantically on the feeders and there were several male blackbirds in the meadows and around the orchard, but only a couple of females. A few chaffinches and greenfinches continued to pick up spilt food from under the feeders but sadly no bramblings were seen in spite of an influx in other areas. Both a male and a female siskin appeared on the 18th and a female sparrowhawk was seen in the garden on the 19th sitting in one of the orchard trees. Yet more rain fell towards the end of the week and garden, having dried out a little, again became completely marshy with water from the pond next door still well into the vegetable garden. Several pheasants appeared to be living permanently in the garden, feeding on the seeds falling from the bird feeders even though a slightly milder spell of weather meant that there was probably plenty of food for them in the adjacent fields.

As we approached the end of the year, and on the very day of the winter solstice, a song thrush was heard singing – only a few tiny phrases but enough to lift the spirits! Wet weather continued for a few more days and after last month’s narrow escape my office did eventually flood, as water percolated deccatkinsblogdown through the sodden fields behind us and into lower levels of the house. The office eventually dried out after the wooden floor was taken up and thankfully there was no damage to furniture, or more importantly, books!  Still, signs of the spring to come were now in the air with the local song thrush singing every morning from the oak woodland next door. A pair of red kites displayed around our local fields and over the garden during the day and we began to hear tawny owls hooting at dusk every evening. The drier weather continued to the end of the month and beyond thankfully, and milder temperatures and lengthening catkins on the hazel made me think foolishly perhaps, that winter had gone.




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The Wildlife Garden in November


The first frosts of the winter meant that November began with rather cold conditions in my wildlife garden, but we then had warmer, drier weather for the rest of the week. All the trees around the garden started to lose their leaves, especially the hawthorns on our southern boundary and the ash in the front garden, but our beech clung on to its leaves, the huge tree creating a wonderful golden dome with just a scattering of leaves on the grass beneath it in the back garden and the vegetable garden. There were plenty of fieldfares and redwings around our area with a few of each of these lovely thrush species visiting the garden every day. Most of the local hawthorn berries, their favourite food at the moment, had pretty much been eaten but a few were remaining in the garden trees. A single yellowhammer sat on the top of the now naked ash one morning and a female kestrel hunted over the garden and the field next door every day. On a couple of evenings a yellow-necked mouse visited the small bird feeding tray outside the back door, unaware of us watching it aided by an outside light. A single bank vole fed on the spilled bird food on the patio. Great views were had of a hare in an adjaBlogmtcent field in exactly the spot where I have seen hares before. I later observed this same individual in a neighbouring field and was able to get some photos of this beautiful mammal.
As the month progressed all the usual bird species were seen in the garden. Large flocks of fieldfares and redwings continued to fly over, and were eventually brave enough to come into the garden. About 40 redwings spent time in the large holly at the end of the garden and fieldfares, having now eaten all the hawthorn berries on our boundary trees, resorted to the apple orchard where we have good crops this year, which will hopefully last them for a while.
The next few days were spent in the Peak District in Derbyshire where I was able to observe and record the wildlife in a very different garden to my own. I was most excited to see large numbers of house sparrows – rarely seen in my garden – plus an adjacent churchyard, overflowing with yew trees with a great crop of berries, provided feeding opportunities for mistle and song thrush, blackbird and the occasional redwing. Tits used the garden bird feeders there and other notable bird species seen this week were raven and several goldcrests.
On my return to South Shropshire it was no surprise to see that our huge crop of holly berries had gone completely! The garden was exceptionally wet and all the usual bird species quickly returned as the feeders were replenished. Marsh tits and coal tits continued to cache food avidly. On the 22nd of the month I counted 55 fieldfares in the orchard along with tits and finches of several species. Grey squirrels were frantically collecting hazelnuts and a single bank vole was seen under one of the sunflower heart feeders, collecting up and carrying off any seeds that had fallen. Most interesting at this blogdmtime was the nocturnal activity from our local tawny owls which were very vocal – at least two were heard calling from the wood next door on several evenings.
The last week of the November was much like the rest of the month – cold and very, very wet, as was much of the country. Winter thrushes, especially a flock of 50 – 60 fieldfares, continued to visit us and the feeders hosted plenty of tits, finches, nuthatches and woodpeckers. A single treecreeper was seen on the 27th and bank voles and squirrels tidied up the bird food under the feeders. Incessant rain meant that the garden was totally sodden to the point where my downstairs office was in danger of flooding! On the 25th two tawny owls were heard calling in the garden and in spite of the cold conditions several moths were seen around the outside light, including several December moths. Less rain over the next few days did little to dry the garden out but at least my office was safe! At the very end of the month a single grey wagtail visited the wildlife ponds on two occasions, so the wet conditions did have one positive effect!


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The Wildlife Garden in October


The weather in Shropshire became more autumnal in the first week of the October with berries now showing up well in the hedges and big hawthorn trees around my garden. There were still a few butterflies about including a single green-veined white in the ‘wild carrot meadow’ on the first of the month. Conditions became more wet and windy through the first week though, with just the odd bit of welcome sunshine. There were still plenty of tits all around the garden and on the feeders, especially blue tits, and the marsh tits were still caching food frantically. Only a single bank vole was seen but there was evidence of their runs all over the garden through the grassy areas, and on the 3rd of the month a chiff chaff was seen on the rotary washing line, drinking the water droplets that hung there, and bathing in the ‘mini-pond’ at the back of the house. Verbena bonariensis was still flowering beautifully in the vegetable garden and a single red admiral was seen feeding on it on the 5th. On the 7th there was a small flock of 30 or so redwings – our first winter thrushes this year – low over the garden with five stopping off briefly in the apple orchard.

The second week of the month began with a sparrowhawk kill outside my office  – a wood pigeon – although the kill was abandoned.  Two buzzards took great interest in it on the 8th but weren’t quite brave enough to come down so close to my office windows. On the same day a single red kite also checked it out but again didn’t quite land. Other birds in the garden included a few chaffinches which I hadn’t seen for a while,Ruddy Darter9638blog but there were very few goldfinches – just a handful on the feeders. A female sparrowhawk came through daily and a male was also seen on the 16th – both coming regularly to sit on the feeders outside my office. In the vegetable garden  nasturtiums and calendula were both well in flower but only attracting a few flies.  In the evenings a skein of geese flew over the garden on several days, heading towards the Long  Mynd.

As we moved into the third week of the month a more autumnal feeling prevailed.  At least two grey squirrels were burying hazel nuts around the garden while jays continued to bury acorns. On the 17th, eight redwings were seen in the big hawthorns on our garden boundary and they joined several male blackbirds to eat the hawthorn berries there and in the vegetable garden hedge.  Two female bullfinches and a male blackcap were also feeding in the hawthorns. A migrant hawker dragonfly flew around the big pond and a ruddy darter rested on the edge of the compost bin in the vegetable garden, soaking up the autumn sunshine. A single red admiral fed on the Verbena this week and two sunbathed on one of our south facing hedges. Twelve long-tailed tits were using the feeders daily and a male blackcap was seen eating the berries on our large alder buckthorn. A few greenfinches returned to the feeders.

In the last week of the month a treecreeper was seen feeding on one of our big apple trees outside the back door.  This is a regular species here in the autumn and winter and always entertaining to watch.  A male fox was heard calling one evening in the field next door  at the beginning of the week – an eerie sound in the damp misty weather. A small flock of redwings continued to feed in the hawthorns most days while two marsh tits carried on with their task of caching sunflower hearts. The 24th was a beautiful bright sunny day after the cloud had lifted, but the weather turned cold and wet on the 24th and 25th – and we received some much needed rain. A small flock of fieldfares visited the hawthorns daily, chacking andSparrowhawk9688blog squabbling noisily and they were joined by several blackbirds. Two tawny owls were heard several times in the late evenings giving us hope for a breeding pair in the area next spring.  On the 25th a male sparrowhawk spent some time sitting on the bird feeders outside my office and a female kestrel hovered over the garden almost every day – she was seen to catch a bank vole on two occasions. Torrential rain fell overnight on the 25th/26th, completely flooding the garden and the surrounding fields from which the garden has yet to recover! Thankfully the house remained dry.  The month ended with frosty weather with large numbers of finches and thrushes around the garden. Siskins have yet to appear but I shall be looking out for this favourite bird over the next few weeks.


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The Wildlife Garden in September

The beginning of September saw our female mallard and all the young ducklings happily living in our garden once again in spite of our attempts to encourage them to use the bigger pond next door. On the first of the month we had excellent views of a hobby in a clear blue sky, chasing the swallows over the garden – the day our second brood of young swallows fledged! None were seen to be caught but I certainly had conflicted loyalties – the swallows continued to be very active around the nest in the mornings and evenings and none seemed to be missing! There was a huge amount of swallow activity all around the house for several sunny days – possibly the first brood siblings with parents and the second brood plus other local birds. Large numbers of young goldfinches were using the garden, especially feeding on the seeds of the knapweed and thistles on the pond bank, Goldfinchblogand they soon learned to use the feeders and find water in the small ponds. Towards the end of the week the weather became very cool but birds were still abundant in the garden and some butterflies too, especially red admiral, small tortoiseshell and painted lady which were very active on sunny days.

At the beginning of the second week the weather was a little warmer but sadly the better conditions didn’t last long. However, when the sun shone there were still plenty of butterflies around and the Verbena bonariensis in the vegetable garden was covered with whites, red admirals and painted ladies. On the 9th a hare was seen well in the field next door, a rarity around us here and wonderful to watch. The weather began to feel more autumnal this week but our swallows were still with us roosting in the porch nests overnight, but by the 12th they appeared to have gone. Large numbers of passing martins and swallows swooped and fed over the big pond every day, creating quite a spectacle. By the end of the second week all the meadow cutting was finished and the task of raking up all the hay was a time consuming job as usual!

The third week of September was spent away from home on the South Wales coast. The Gower Peninsula is a very beautiful area that I have visited in the past and I was keen to return to this picturesque coast which is teaming with wildlife. The weather was stunning for most of the week and it was brilliant to walk every morning along the cliff tops to Worm’s Head. My main objective was to see choughs and indeed we saw them every day, both on the cliffs and on the Rhossili Downs which frame and shelter the amazing beach there. Other birds seen frequently this week were wheatear andChoughblog stonechat plus there were large flocks of linnets and goldfinches taking advantage of the seeds in a huge field of sunflowers growing in the area. A single peregrine falcon was also a highlight of our coastal walks as were several views of wall brown butterfly and a single small adder.

The last week of the month saw me back in my Shropshire garden and the week began with sunny but cool and windy conditions, although we did have some much needed rain on a couple of days which filled the ponds and refreshed the borders. Large numbers of blue tits and great tits were still using the feeders and there were daily visits from the mallard ducklings – now fully grown – as they continued to commute between our garden and the pond next door. Kites and buzzards soared overhead and some birds, the local marsh tits in particular, began caching food especially sunflower hearts. In spite of the lack of an ‘Indian Summer’ there were still red admirals around the garden feeding on Verbena, which was still well in flower, and on the fallen apples and plums in the orchard. The month ended with cool wet weather and on the 30th several swallows were seen flying over the garden – no doubt the last we will see here until next April.


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The Wildlife Garden in August

August was yet another very variable month weather-wise and some areas of the UK experienced high winds and torrential rain. Here in South Shropshire conditions could have been worse and at least we had some sunshine between the storms. Our nesting swallows were coping well with the poor weather conditions – they seemed to be experienced parents and possibly not first-time breeders as I had suspected, and they were confidently incubating their second brood – even when visitors came to the front door they generally sat tight and were not easily disturbed. Spells of good weather between the storms meant that they went into overdrive once the eggs had hatched. Around the borders butterflies were still very much in evidence with a huge influx of peacocks – I counted forty around the long borders and the herb garden. Painted lady and red admiral were also still numerous especially on the Buddleia and Verbena bonariensis. There were lots of birds all around the garden, and the local red kites appeared to have had a successful nest close by. Two adults and a juvenile soared over the garden on clear days and their whistling calls echoed all around our little valley.

As we moved into the second week of the month nothing really changed in terms of the weather except that it became even more windy! The local female kestrel visited the garden many times, sometimes hovering over the wildflower meadows or sitting on the electricity cables over the nectar garden at the back of the house, and a male Antler8872blogsparrowhawk also found a convenient perch on one of our garden seats. Bumblebees were plentiful all around the borders and butterflies continued to survive in spite of sometimes wet and windy conditions. A single hummingbird hawkmoth was seen feeding on the Buddleia on the 9th and the moth trap attracted a good range of species including one of my favourites, the antler moth.

The wild mallard duck and her ducklings continued to feed here but we were able to encourage them out of our garden this week and into the large neglected field next door. This field has a big natural pond where the ducklings will be able to find plenty of food plus a bigger pond will provide them shelter from any predators that might be around. They seemed very settled and we could hear them splashing about in their new home!

On the 13th a juvenile siskin was seen on the feeders. I was thrilled to see this gorgeous little bird – after having so many in the garden over the winter I was hopeful that they would be breeding in the area and this visitor possibly confirmed that, and later this week two more siskins appeared – an adult male and female. Very bad weather on the 14th left the garden windswept and wet and on the morning of the 15th a male blackcap was seen in the hawthorn outside the back door looking fluffed up and very damp. The variable wetter weather continued and these conditions brought yet more young birds to the garden feeders. Plenty of large dragonflies were seen around the big pond in sunnier spells including brown hawker, but on the 17th the female mallard abandoned her ducklings on the pond next door and returned to our pond! The following day all the ducklings had also returned having somehow climbed over or though the fence that surrounds the garden!

As we moved through the month the weather remained unsettled – it was often cool for the time of year and also still very windy. The ducks continued to commute between our garden and the pond next door and young birds were seen in good numbers all around especially in the orchard and on the feeders. Blue tits and goldfinches in particular were seen in very good numbers. A family of greenfinches also used the feeders daily. There were however fewer butterflies towards the end of the month, although agreenfinch9195blog single wall brown was seen feeding on lavender on the 26th, and basking on the house wall, but dragonfly numbers were still very good, especially for the larger species such as migrant and southern hawker and I was pleased that our wildlife pond was continuing to provide a good habitat for them in spite of the large number of mallard making use of a pond that was far too small for them!  The moth trap continued to bring in exceptional numbers of the commoner species.

The month ended with lower temperatures here and a family of wrens was roosting every evening in a small open fronted bird box in the tangled Clematis orientalis that grows over the potting shed, a sure sign that summer is just about over. With all the wildflower meadows now cut, the garden looked rather empty and wild but the bird feeders were simply buzzing with tits and finches. Bank voles were still around in large numbers and a single common shrew was also seen, but it was the huge flocks of young goldfinches, often fifty or more, that we were seeing daily, that indicated that summer was just about over.


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The Wildlife Garden in July


The weather was variable at the start of July with a very cool and damp feel on the 1st of the month. Luckily the weather grew warmer as the week progressed and the last few days were quite warm! There were lots of young birds around the garden especially tits, with great tits anting under the climbing rose in the back garden. There were several ringlet butterflies around the meadows – certainly more than we have had for several years here, plus meadow browns were also plentiful.  It was so nice to see these meadow species dancing over the long grasses and wildflowers.  Other insects were also plentiful with lots of bumblebees feeding and a couple of scarlet tiger moths around the vegetable patch.  As the week progressed we began to see swifts feeding over the garden and the small field next door.  This is a relatively unusual bird for us to see here but as the week progressed more appeared every day until a maximum of about 50 were counted. They were joined by house martins and swallows and we enjoyed this spectacle every day with swift numbers building up to still further.  Our own swallows continued to feed their young in the nest in the front porch, and our post lady got used to dodging them as she delivered the mail.

The second week of the month still brought variable weather but there were a couple of warm days at the beginning of the week. The pair of red legged partridges were around every day often feeding on the sunflower hearts that fell beneath the feeders. A female mallard also appeared daily – usually at the end of the afternoon to stock up on food and have a swim in the pond and we became suspicious that she may have a nest somewhere. Single butterflies of several species appeared around the garden includingRingletblogjuly comma, small tortoiseshell and peacock in the long borders. A wood pigeon continued to build yet another nest in the hedge in the back garden and the large numbers of swifts continued to feed over the garden with the local swallows and house martins. Towards the end of the week numbers of meadow brown and ringlet butterflies increased considerably and we had the best numbers of these species here for some years.

In the third week of the month our swallows fledged – possibly on the 15th – with 4 or 5 young. The parents were seen fluttering around the porch trying to encourage the youngsters out.  They flew around the garden this week, resting on the overhead wires.  The weather alternated between sunny and warm to cool and windy and there were still masses of young tits feeding – probably from second broods. The orchids in the back garden now going over but were being replaced by lots of the biennial wildflower wild carrot which looked stunning!  There were plenty of butterflies still around in the meadows especially browns, commas, small tortoiseshell and peacock. The bullfinch family was constantly in the copse hooting and feeding on the wild cherries and there were a couple of young robins around the garden at last.

In the last week of July the weather was yet again very variable. The bullfinches were now beginning to use the birdfeeders and our swallows seemed to be out all day, returning in the evening to roost in the nest. There were excellent numbers of butterflies in the wildflower meadows especially ringlet, meadow brown and essex skipper and we also saw a sudden large hatch of hoverflies which were all around the garden feeding on flowers in borders and meadows.  A surprise find was a slow worm in one of thePLblogjuly compost heaps.  This is a very welcome garden resident that we only occasionally see here. Other welcome visitors to the garden this month included the local kestrel and several linnets, the latter feeding on seeds of various small wildflowers in the meadows. Towards the end of the week the inevitable happened – our local wild mallard duck appeared with eleven fluffy ducklings.  We suspected that she might be around after last year’s successful nest here and she proudly paraded them around the garden, only once attempting to attack me when she came across me unexpectedly in the garden. The month ended with more variable weather but the butterflies were fantastic as huge numbers of peacock and painted lady fed all around the garden.


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The Wildlife Garden in June


At the beginning of June the weather was yet again very variable in South Shropshire, although the rain we had was actually quite welcome. Cooler damper weather was interspersed with sunny periods with a little warmth, and the garden was almost overwhelmed with young blue tits and great tits which all seemed to fledge from our bird boxes within a week. Other young birds though were rather scarce with just a couple of young robins and no juvenile blackbirds at all in spite of nests here. The common spotted orchids in the garden continued to appear and the small ‘orchid meadow’ at the back of the house – once just a patch of lawn – was full of this beautiful species – over 200 were counted in this one spot. These orchids found their own way to this area of lawn, seeding naturally from a few plants in the big meadow where a little seed was sown when we first created the garden.  Clearly this spot with fine leaved grasses right outside our back door is just right for them.  They seem to have found the perfect spot and are spreading year after year.

A single female mallard, most likely one from the brood that bred on the pond here last year, appeared in the garden and seemed fixated on my husband, following him around whenever he was outside! A couple of red-legged partridges also spent a lot of time in the garden and are possibly nesting at the bottom of one of our hedges. Sadly there were no more signs of spotted flycatchers here and butterfly numbers dwindled as torrential rain fell at the end of the week.


As the month progressed the weather in the second week remained wet, changeable and unseasonal! The damp conditions meant that the wildflower meadows grew rapidly. Numbers of  young birds continued to increase and we were treated to the wonderful sight of a kestrel hunting over the garden as bank voles were plentiful here in June. Kestrel is a bird that we used to see frequently here, especially hovering over the meadows we have created, but is now a more unusual visitor. Young birds continued to flock to the garden feeders and the tits were joined by juvenile woodpeckers, their bright red caps making them very noticeable. Another seed feeder in the garden attracted a pair of local jays – they managed to remove the peanuts with great skill!  A few house sparrows also appeared – a rare bird in the garden here.

The kestrel continued to visit, often sitting on a wire over the back garden, giving us great views of this beautiful bird. The weather became cool and changeable but the many young blue and great tits continued to use the feeders which needed filling up twice a day. The light evenings gave me the opportunity to see what was going on around the garden at dusk and a tawny owl one evening was followed by a barn owl the next! Barn owl has been seen here before but I do wonder how often this lovely bird visits us and we just don’t see it.

The weather warmed up in the last week of June, at least for a short while, and a few butterfly species appeared here in small numbers. Red admiral, holly blue and speckled wood and ringlet joined a few green-veined whites but the real splashes of colour blogringletaround the garden came from the flowering plants especially the common spotted orchids.  Knapweed, meadow cranesbill and lady’s bedstraw came into flower in the big meadow and meadowsweet covered the banks of the big pond and filled the apple orchard beneath the fruit trees.

As the month came to an end the weather was again changeable – it was cool and damp for several days which made me concerned for the young swallows in the nest in our porch, although the parent birds seemed to be returning with food for them even when there was drizzle. However warmer sunny weather returned and large numbers of house martins zipped around the garden in the early evenings, often clinging to the wall of the house but showing no interest in the artificial nest cups thereblogwoodyj which was very frustrating! Siskins were seen most days, usually on the sunflower heart feeders and a few meadow butterflies began to appear – ringlet and meadow brown danced around the meadows, feeding on knapweed and sometimes yellow rattle.  An influx of painted lady butterflies fed from the catmint in the borders around the house and the garden was beautifully colourful with masses of meadow cranesbill in flower – a plant that has spread here vigorously.

In all June was an excellent month for wildlife here, and hopefully the trend will continue into July.



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