Wherever you live in the world, garden wildlife can be a can bring both pleasure and pain. This is a brief look at some of the critters that can be found in the UK backyard. Depending on the size of your garden you may wish to encourage or deter certain wild animals, birds and insects. First, let us look at some garden wildlife that brings the greatest benefits followed by those less desirable menaces - you can decide whether they are 'friend or foe';Birds - The best time to feed birds is from November through the winter to April when they set off to their breeding grounds. Adult birds need supplementary food to sustain them until they can catch natural foods for their young. The best foods are those made available by nature such as oil rich Black Sunflower seed but when they are not available the humble peanut has remained the most popular garden bird food. Formulated seeds mixtures are readily available from suppliers such as CJ WildBird Foods and suitable hanging feeders, table and ground feeders can be found at Bird Feeding Station at different times of the year depending on the needs of different species.
Clinging feeders should be used for the Tit family and the ground feeders for Robins, Thrushes and Doves. Hanging feeders are for the clingers and ground feeders for the rest. The Bird table offers safety from cats and hanging feeders filled with Sunflower Seed, Peanuts or Sunflower Hearts to attract Tits, Greenfinch and Woodpeckers. Ground feeders with mixed seeds are for Thrushes, Robins and Doves. Feeders filled with Nyjer seed attract the Goldfinch. It is probably fair to say that apart from having your seeds and fruit stolen; birds can be by far the most pleasurable garden wildlife you can have.
Butterflies - Encouraging butterflies is a little more complicated than encouraging birds, although flower seeds do attract both. It is more a case of creating a butterfly garden environment that they can live and breed in rather than receiving migratory visitations. Many plants will attract butterflys but a selection that flower at different times is best to attract garden wildlife. Here are some ways to attract specific varieties;
Creating shelter in the winter is also important. Sheltered places in log piles, sheds and garages are common places for them to sit out the cold weather during hibernation. A tidy garden is less attractive for these insects.
Hedgehog - Found throughout the UK, Hedgehogs are abundant in and around parks, pasture land wooded areas and gardens. Most active on night, snails, slugs and earthworms form their staple diet. Leaving small trails of their black slug-shaped droppings in the dew of the grass, they have long been the gardener's friend, particularly the vegetable plot where their diet consists of slugs and other garden pests. In summer, hedgehog's shelter during the day in temporary nests built amongst the leaves and moss. By late autumn they have put on enough weight in preparation for their hibernation when they nests under hedgerows, compost heaps and old rabbit burrows. They will be emerging in the spring if they have not been eaten by their natural predators; Pine Martins, Badgers, Stoats and Foxes. Although they are good swimmers, many hedgehogs drown in garden ponds as they are unable to get a grip the slippery sides.
Hedgehogs can be encouraged into the garden wildlife in a number of ways;
The garden wildlife pond should be a pond that does not contain any fish because they will eat baby newts as soon as they hatch.
It is important to remember that a your pond is best left natural i.e. no filter, as the build up of algae serve a purpose of providing newts with water insects which are their staple diet. Frogs and newts co-exist in relative harmony although both will eat tadpoles no matter which they belong to.
Frogs - Common frogs can be found in woodlands, quarries and gardens. Breeding usually begins in late winter to early spring. Young frogs leave their ponds in June and hide away in surrounding vegetation. With most of their time is spent out of the water, they really only return to lay their frogspawn although they need to keep moist so prefer damp ground. They are at risk from careless mowing and strimming, so protect this garden wildlife safe by keeping the grass short - mowing it regularly.
As with newts, ponds should have shallow edges to allow exit with ease. Ponds need direct sunlight to thrive properly and so a good mixture of native pond plants like marsh marigolds and water violets should be used to see ponds thrive. The biggest benefit of having frogs in your garden wildlife is to keep unwanted insects at bay. They eat snails, moths, slugs, beetles and mosquitoes to mention a few, so planting lots of different shrubs and mulching garden beds will help attract them.
Squirrels - Grey squirrels are alien species to the UK and were introduced from the USA in the late nineteenth/early twentieth century reducing the native red squirrel population. Squirrels are rodents and therefore are gnawing animals. Most are active during the daytime and are basically vegetarians. They eat a wide variety of plants, but they also eat fruits and nuts. In the autumn, they are especially attracted to oaks, hazel and beech. Therefore, woodlands and urban areas, especially near oaks, beeches and other nut trees, are their favourite environment. Their diet includes seeds and berries, especially in spring and occasionally bird eggs, nestling birds and insects.
Squirrels make interesting garden wildlife and are often attracted with minimal effort. Attracting them by feeding them is not recommended as they tend to bury a few nuts for future use i.e. in the middle of the lawn. When they dig up a nut they often leave a mess! It is not a good idea to put out shelled peanuts or other small nuts as these attract a large number of pigeons along with their droppings. Nest boxes, made of oaks, hazel and beech, can also be constructed if large mature trees are limited. One
Foxes - The red fox has become the most widespread of wild dogs in the UK gaining the reputation for being sly and cunning. Although opportunist feeders, they will eat insects, berries, birds, earthworms and small mammals. Their numbers continue to grow as scraps left by humans have become easy pickings. Primarily active at dusk and night, faeces and urine are used to mark their territories. If that is something you just cannot live with, then maybe having a Garden Wildlife is not for you. Foxes, especially their cubs, are cute to say the least, but there is a high risk of disease so caution should be taken when it comes to encouraging them especially when there are young children around.
Moles - In the garden they are not harmful as such, but can make a real mess of your. Attracted to the garden because of the earthworms beneath the soil, they wreak havoc upon the garden simply by the lifestyle they lead. Trapping can be done by humane mole traps from a good garden centre. However, they sometimes need to be set by an expert to be effective. Moles are territorial and the chances are that once you present mole is captured the neighbours are likely to move in seizing the opportunity to increase their territory. Therefore, trapping is not an absolute solution to eradicating your mole problem!
The best way of dealing with moles in the garden is to take preventative measures from the start. Being sensitive to noise there are vibration and electronic buzzing devices on the market which can drive moles mad and stop them setting up home in the first place.
We hope you have found this information interesting and has helped you appreciate some of which Garden Wildlife may be your friend or foe.