Wildlife in the Garden

Have you ever noticed how an everyday activity sometimes turns into a magical event? We live in a small village in the North West of England. We’re just on the edge of the village with our garden stretching out into the surrounding countryside. Apart from traffic passing through on the main street it’s a peaceful place. Just the way we like it. Everyday I make a point of walking to our local post box to send orders on their way to my lovely customers.

blackberryToday on my walk into the village I spotted a glossy, golden brown, fat mouse sitting in the sunshine. He was close to the hedge on the warm pavement eating the biggest ripe blackberry I have ever seen. It was like a scene from a story book. I stood a few feet away and watched as he munched and wiped the sticky juice from his whiskers with his pink feet. He didn’t notice me, even when I rummaged noisily around in my pockets for my phone. There was no chance of a picture, the phone sadly left at home plugged into the charger. Eventually I tore myself away. Posted the seeds. Popped into the newsagents. Chatted to a neighbour. Sauntered back home. Would you believe it? The mouse was still there completely oblivious to everything but the blackberry. I don’t know why he didn’t scamper off… perhaps he knew that I was no threat or perhaps the blackberry was just too good to resist! Once again I had to force myself to leave the scene. Things to do. You know how it is.

leavesWalking home I realised how lucky I was to see such a beautiful little creature. We have mice and voles in our garden but we only ever catch fleeting glimpses of them. They are quite timid. Encounters with wildlife are so amazing to me. I started to think about what we can do in the garden this autumn so that they will survive winter, no matter how harsh the weather becomes. We’ll be collecting barrow loads of fallen leaves but as usual we’ll leave a good mulch of them under the hedges. They’ll provide shelter for small creatures and eventually they will enrich the soil. Small mammals need food too so we’ll leave seed heads on some of the more sturdy plants. I know that mice collect and store seeds and nuts so they will all have a little stash somewhere. If they venture out on a mild winter day it would be rather good if they could find food and fresh water too… so we’ll keep the saucers topped up every day with clean water.

Striding back up the driveway deep in thought a flash of gold attracted my attention high up in a Beech Tree. Just a few leaves have changed colour and a shaft of sunlight lit them up. I am sure they didn’t look like that on my way down the driveway! Changeable autumn weather means that lighting conditions can change quickly too so I ran to grab my camera. Luckily I managed to take a few shots of the golden leaves.

Golden-Beech-Leaves

I didn’t catch a shot of the golden mouse but I was very happy that the sun lit up those leaves at just the right moment. I didn’t spot the holes in the leaves until later. I was quite sure I had some lovely shots. I laughed out loud when I saw that the leaves were not quite as perfect as I thought. I must have been blinded by the light! The Beech tree is mature, tall and healthy so whatever has been eating the leaves is very unlikely to have an impact on the tree. I’m guessing that some kind of moth caterpillars have been feeding there. That’s great for small garden birds… plenty of insects means more food for the wild birds. We don’t use pesticides so there are always colonies of some pest or other that our garden visitors quickly demolish.

Five things you can do to help wildlife in your garden

  • Provide a source of water in the form of a small pond or large deep saucers of water.
  • Bin the pesticides. They kill caterpillars and insects which would otherwise be a food source for wild birds.
  • Rethink your autumn garden tidy up. Overwintering Butterflies and, amphibians and small mammals hide in dry sheltered places. Rake up the leaves, leave some under your hedge and make a big bin of leafmould (which you can use on your borders next year) rather than using a leaf blower to collect them. There’s no need to bag them up and remove them. That’s such a waste!
  • Leave seedheads on hardy perennial plants. They’ll provide food and shelter for insects and small creatures.
  • Bin the herbicides. It’s tempting to spray weeds to kill them but you are kidding yourself if you think it won’t harm the wildlife. Chemicals kill insects as well as the plants they need to feed on.

eryngium-seedheads-ig

You may already be well aware of the simple things you can do this autumn to help wildlife. If you have already changed how you manage your garden that’s brilliant. Can you persuade your family and friends or your neighbours to make a few changes too? Tiny creatures won’t survive without our help.

There’s no doubt in my mind that encounters with wildlife enrich our lives. It would be good to know that our children and grandchildren will be able to see some of the amazingly beautiful insects and small mammals that we see can all see today. If they are very lucky.

Love GillianWhat are you doing in your garden for the wildlife this autumn and winter?

Thanks for reading, liking and commenting too. Happy Gardening! Gillian

15 thoughts on “Wildlife in the Garden

  1. Gillian must have been a wonderful sight to see the little mouse eating a blackberry. If the leaves are not perfect does not matter: it is Nature. I have wild Brambles in the garden so that birds can nest and eat blackberries ground now. I have also Rosa canina for the same. The birds were placed in a trough that broke grain: or arrangement or buy a new one. Where are the irrigation taps have made a puddle that never dries out and go drinking birds, insects and is home to a frog. I have never taken any pesticides: my garden is an ecological garden. And with the ecological premise works. There stacked wood, ivy, honeysuckle and many places to hide and shelter from the cold. Now I will go back for about 15 days at the cottage and I’ll buy straw to put in strategic places and make more places to spend the warm winter. Greetings from Margarita.

      1. I love Gillian preparations you do in your garden so that wild animals have a place to shelter in winter and fresh water. In addition to leaving the seeds in the flowers so they can eat. He likes animals, it shows. I would also really like animals and when early morning birds are gathered in his puddle (mini pond) of clear, fresh water drinking and bathing some, I froze at the entrance to the garden not to disturb them, and sidelong I see them and enjoy very much. Greetings from Margarita.

  2. Lovely to see those gorgeous berries. Are those Elderberries at the top? Both remind me of the wonderful childhood I had in Hampshire when we had such a lot of countryside to play in, abandoned railway line, watercress beds, sea shore and fields upon fields with all those hedgerows. Seeing that mouse must have been lovely. I had a similar experience earlier in the year when a little mouse was trying to eat a seedhead and every time he got to the top of the stalk the whole thing bent down and he fell off! I got some very amusing photos although poor quality as he was so far away. I try to make my garden very wildlife friendly: provide water, leave on seedheads, have a wood pile, compost heaps that don’t get turned very often, and piles of leaves everywhere from Autumn until late spring.

    1. I think all encounters with little wild creatures are amazing… yours sounds especially entertaining Annette. And your childhood too – yes… they are Elderberries. We have loads around here and each year I remind myself to collect them and make cordial but have never yet actually managed it!

  3. You have described that little mouse so well I can see him even without a photo! I disturbed a toad the other day… he was a mottled yellowish green – quite beautiful really – and blended in perfectly with the fallen leaves! We have a huge compost heap which never gets turned or disturbed and there are lots of little tunnels in it, so I think we have quite a few creatures living in there, including hibernating hedgehogs. 🙂

    1. That’s brilliant Cathy. your compost heap sounds fantastic as does your colourful toad. Our toads are quite dark, almost black and very lumpy. Not beautiful at all but very useful as they make their homes around any plants I have left in pots in the polytunnel and outside the greenhouse where they must gorge on tiny slugs.

  4. It is good to help wildlife if we can. I have made an insect hotel this year. It is so easy that a child could do it. And mine looks as if a child has made it. Still never mind, it will serve its purpose and give ladybirds and beneficial bugs somewhere to overwinter.

    1. I think that homemade bug hotels are the best! You are quite right… it doesn’t matter what they look like. The insects will love a dry sheltered place.

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