Winter Preps now complete !
Despite the cold and wet weather and only 2 volunteers, the maintenance session went ahead on Saturday 22nd November ! The Parks and Open Spaces Department had cut the meadow surrounding the wildlife pond, enabling FOEP to complete Winter preparations.
A big “Thank You” to Bridget and Steve, who “carried on regardless” and managed to thin out the pond plants and sow wildflower seeds. Sorry I couldn’t join you on this occasion. We can now look forward to Spring with anticipation. The newly acquired waders are proving very popular !
The Joys of Winter ? Probably few of us look forward to the Winter months, and it does seem such a long time before the arrival of Spring. However, (leaving aside the icy winds, defrosting the car windscreens, dark nights and taking out the rubbish bins in the snow), I like to think Winter is a time for Nature to gather strength for regrowth and rejuvenation in the Spring. We tend to say “everything dies down in winter”, but does it ?
Winter colour and wildlife visitors are a great source of pleasure for me. My photographic skills are somewhat limited and I spend (waste! ) a lot of time with my camera in the hope of recording a half-decent photo. So bearing that in mind, I would like to share a few photos which show the vitality and wildlife that can be found in our winter gardens.
The bulbs planted in our gardens during September/October will be growing larger and already the grape hyacinths have foliage.
The hellebores are putting up fresh leaves and will flower around January until late Spring. They are easy to grow and will self seed. Also known as the Christmas Rose.
The Mahonia (Charity) has already displayed the wonderful yellow spikes and will go on to provide abundant blue/black berries (especially liked by blackbirds). A vital food source for birds.
Skimmia can display their flowers and berries at the same, on the same shrub ! One of my favourites.
the Holly and The Ivy – We are all familiar with the holly and its colourful berries. Many people believe if the holly has an abundance of berries, it will be
a harsh winter ? I don’t know if there is any scientific evidence for this, but I do know our garden birds certainly enjoy the plump red berries. Certainly a vital source of food for a harsh winter.
Lastly, the much maligned Ivy (Hedera helix) is a very useful and colourful climber if it is allowed to mature to produce large white flower sprays, followed by black berries. It provides dense cover for shelter and nesting for birds (e.g. wren, blackbird, robin) and insects.
It is a valuable plant for many species, especially insects filling up on nectar before hibernating. Ivy berries ripen in winter, when most other berries have already been eaten.
It grows in any soils and tolerates both deep shade and full sun. However, only shoots in the sun produce flowers. It is poisonous to humans. Many variegated ivies are available in garden centres.
Animals that benefit:
Holly blue caterpillar feeds on the flowers buds.
Wasps, hornets, hoverflies, bumblebees, red admirals, small tortoiseshells and peacock butterflies, and other late-flying insects, drink the nectar.
Many birds, such as blackbirds and thrushes, eat the berries
Attracting Birds into our Gardens
With natural habitats disappearing, birds really do rely more and more on our gardens for food and shelter. I have found peanuts, sunflower hearts (no messy husks) and fat balls/cakes are firm favourites with most birds. Clean water – 2 or 3 dishes are essential for bathing, drinking and “dunking” (have you seen a crow or magpie dunk a piece of bread in the water?).
Birds will rely on regular feeding and if it is no longer available will waste valuable energy seeking other sources of food – so keep going! Keep feeders and bird baths/dishes clean to prevent spread of diseases. Purchase bird foods from a reputable supplier – cheaper sources may have been sprayed with toxic substances and will contain ingredients that simply “bulk up” the weight rather than provide any nutritious value for the birds. Admittedly it may be more expensive but will increase the health, survival and successful breeding in the Spring. More photos!
Note the cage to prevent the larger birds eating everything !
Not everyone welcomes the green parakeet into their garden – they are noisy and tend to visit in flocks which take over the feeders. By providing special “cage” feeders it is possible to ensure the smaller birds get their share of food. Sorry, I like parakeets.
A special visitor – the Sparrow Hawk
Attracting birds into my garden does have its “downside”. We have a Sparrow Hawk that regularly swoops over the garden. It really is quite magnificent but I’m always glad when the small birds dive to safety in the bushes and ivy.
On one occasion the Sparrow Hawk became trapped in between the 8 inch space between our wire fence and our neighbour’s wood panels. It was very confused but not injured. We managed to free it.
Squirrels are also a great delight, although at the moment I’m not too happy with them as they have completely dug up 2 large pots of newly planted spring bulbs.
The squirrels can be a bit “challenging” at times, not just in terms of gardening, but also ensuring they do not destroy bird feeders.
We have two boxes, with lids, filled with peanuts specifically for them. It’s great to watch them opening the lid and chasing each other. We soon know when the boxes are empty when they start to visit the bird feeders!
The birds also enjoy the bits of peanut that fall on the ground. So far the birds do not attempt to open the boxes although the jays, magpies and pigeons do sit patiently watching to see how it is done!
Sharing your photos
Do you have any photos of the wildlife in and around Eaglesfield Park that you would like to share with us? We are always keen to hear your news and comments.