Bring wildlife home
You’ll soon be emerging from your lockdown hibernation and hopefully deciding what your next project will be. But you’re not alone. Birds and bees will soon be doing what birds and bees do, and homemaking for them is just as important. So why not give them a helping hand? It’s amazing how many birds take to the homes we put up for them. And you don’t need a lot of space: our little Cambridge garden, with a small investment, is now a lovely home for wildlife.
A nation of nature lovers
We are a nation of nature lovers; perhaps more now than ever. Approximately half of all households in the UK put out bird feeders, more than the rest of our European neighbours combined. One recent study – involving UEA researchers – even suggested that great tits in the UK are developing longer beaks to cope better with bird feeders. So well done; we’re shaping evolution.
Nest boxes too make life a lot easier for numerous species. It’s amazing how many different shapes and sizes of nest box have been found to be acceptable, even superior, alternatives for a range of species.
Some birds already have a close relationship with us and our gardens and homes. Swifts and swallows have made their homes within the nooks and crannies of our buildings for centuries, and house martins are so named for a reason. Sadly, modern building techniques leave few of the gaps and overhangs these birds need. But we can give them a helping hand. When we had scaffolding up over the winter, we took an opportunity to put up a swift box under the eaves. Our fingers are crossed, and I’ll let you know in May, when these screaming birds return from Africa, if the chicken down we packed in (donated by Angela at the Cambridge Sunday Market) has enticed them in.
I have also enjoyed seeing the house martins nesting under the eaves of Sally Ann’s on Mill Road/Covent Garden for a good few years. Renovation by the Co-op left me worried that the birds might not return. But the company has agreed to put up some nest boxes during the building’s renovation, so keep an eye out.
The kind of birds you get in your garden will depend on how big your garden is and where it’s located. Blue tits and great tits are common visitors to most and are particularly keen to use boxes. These are relatively easy to make but are widely available in most garden centers or online. It is best to locate them away from heavily disturbed areas, but the birds never seem too fussy. A metal plate around the hole is a good addition to keep the squirrels out.
Give them the boot
Robins too may use open-fronted nest boxes (though we’ve never had much luck with these). Equally, they are well known to reimagine household items as nesting sites, including upturned boots and watering cans. We have the latter behind a clump of bamboo, so fingers crossed.
House sparrows, once so common in our gardens, have been in decline for a number of years. Loss of nesting sites, diminishing insects and grain, cats, and air pollution are all blamed. Happily, the decline seems to have leveled off in recent years, but the provision of communal sparrow ‘terraces’ can only help to build up the numbers again.
Make your home for wildlife
I was amazed to find the number of species for which nest boxes have been devised: pied wagtails, wrens, treecreepers, starlings, nuthatches, woodpeckers, blackbirds, kestrels, and various owls can all find a home with your help. And if you’re doing any more major work, why not include a swift block behind or within the wall?
Bats, hogs, and buzzing things
It’s not just the birds. Hedgehogs are another species in decline and can benefit in a number of ways from the way you manage your garden. If you have space, why not install a hedgehog box somewhere quiet. And for a more natural way to control insect pests, bee hotels can encourage a range of species, such as the red mason bee, leafcutter species, harebell bees, and masked or yellow-faced bees. A range of solitary wasps may also use the nest box. Bat boxes are also increasingly needed where loft spaces, which were once so important for a range of species, are omitted or blocked up.
You may also like to read: How to help hedgehogs in your garden
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We at scuseme have an interest in your homes. We want them to be truly where your hearts are – extensions extended, gardens landscaped, gutters cleaned, and roofs repaired. And with Spring soon to burst into life, you’ll all be emerging from your lockdown hibernation and hopefully deciding what your next project will be. Good; let us know and we’ll do what we can to help you.
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