Create a wildlife oasis in your garden
PUBLISHED: 00:00 03 April 2020
Your garden can be a paradise for wildlife. Jenny Bennion, from The Lancashire Wildlife Trust, explores some of the species who share our gardens.
Whether you have several acres, a yard or just a window box, you’ll be amazed at just how many critters you are sharing your outside space with – and how many more you could be.
With an estimated 24 million gardens in the UK, our outdoor spaces are loved by humans and our precious wildlife, too. Our gardens can create wonderful habitats for insects, mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians, and also vital green highways connecting nature reserves with the countryside, allowing wildlife to travel and migrate.
Where you live and what kind of shape your garden is in will affect the types of wildlife you are most likely to spot, but even the drabbest space can be home to a fascinating microcosm of the natural world. Birds are probably some of the easiest members of our wild neighbours to spot. Some of our most common garden birds include the house sparrow, starling, blue tit, blackbird, woodpigeon, goldfinch, great tit, chaffinch, robin and the long-tailed tit.
However, there are concerns for the welfare of some of these familiar visitors. For example, it is estimated that numbers of house sparrows have fallen by 60 per cent since the 1970s. It is thought that this decline is due to the loss of nesting sites and a decrease in food availability.
You can help to support house sparrows and many other regular visitors though taking a few simple steps in your garden. And once your garden is a bird haven, you may see rarer species such as yellowhammers, siskins, nuthatches, jays, chiffchaffs, mistle thrushes, lesser redpolls, sparrowhawks, tawny owls and many more species starting to visit.
Planting native trees and shrubs will give birds somewhere to shelter and putting up nest boxes will provide safe places for breeding. Stocking up your garden with plants that produce berries, fruits and seeds will also provide a natural food source for birds. And you can further help to supplement their diet by stocking up your bird table and feeders with a variety of suitable foods.
Specialist bird seed mixes containing millet are perfect for house sparrows, while tits and greenfinches will devour sunflower seeds and ground peanuts (give whole peanuts only in winter as they are too big for juvenile birds). Nyjer seeds are loved by most birds especially siskins, nuthatches and great spotted woodpeckers.
Fat balls are fantastic foods for a range of birds – just ensure that any nylon mesh is removed before you put them out – and insect eating birds such as blue tits, robins and pied wagtails will happily bankrupt you for mealworms.
But please remember never to give birds bread, it is simply empty calories to them. Milk is also off the table, but a little mild grated cheddar is loved by robins, wrens and dunnocks. And whatever you put out, make sure that it is fresh and that your feeders are clean to avoid the build up of mould which can carry diseases.
You can also make simple changes in your garden which will affect the future of birds right across the Lancashire ecosystem and beyond. Join our peat free campaign and choose peat-free compost, which will help stem the destruction of our precious peatlands and also help to tackle climate change beyond your garden walls.
Lancashire Peatlands Initiative Project Manager, Sarah Johnson said: ‘Across the North West more than 98 per cent of our natural peat bogs have been destroyed due to peat extraction and draining for agriculture.
‘We are working to restore many of these amazing habitats that, when intact, support some of our most endangered bird species such as yellow wagtails, little ringed plover, lapwings and the red shank, while also providing rest areas for migrating birds including snape, raptors and pink-footed geese.
‘We are also working to support the willow tit. With only 8,000 left in the UK, these wonderful birds inhabit the wet woodland areas that surround healthy peat bogs and mosslands.
‘However, all of our hard work restoring what remains of Lancashire’s peatlands is only part of the story. Much of the peat found in a cheap bag of compost from your local garden centre is imported from Ireland and the Baltic states. This is not only damaging precious habitats further afield but also has a significant effect on climate change.
‘Peat bogs store huge amounts of carbon, but when they are drained or dug up this carbon is released into the atmosphere, instead of being safely stored in the ground.’
To find out more about going peat free go to lancswt.org.uk/actions/how-go-peat-free-your-garden.