In recent months, we’ve seen studies hit the headlines which report 70% declines in insect species in certain parts of Europe, including Britain. Many British birds, mammals, insects, and amphibians have been struggling since the 1970s, not least due to intensive agriculture, urban development, habitat destruction and pollution.
“Britain has lost half its wildlife. Now’s the time to shout about it” (The Guardian)
“UK facing ‘ecological apocalypse’, Chris Packham warns” (The Independent)
With our native species under increasing pressure, here’s five tips on how to give them a helping hand in our own gardens – they’ve worked for me! With a bit of care, our gardens can be a great haven for wildlife.
(1) Maintain a source of clean water. Particularly in the summer months, a shallow bowl or birdbath filled with cool water can be a great draw for birds, mammals, and insects looking to cool off. In winter, when ponds and puddles are frozen over, keep an open water source going to provide wildlife with a much-needed drink.
(2) Let nature run a bit wild. Many of us like to keep our gardens well maintained. Whilst this might be aesthetically pleasing, it isn’t great for wildlife. Large areas of exposed lawn give little cover to invertebrates on which your garden ecosystem depends. Let some areas grow wild, plant wildflowers, expand your borders, or just let the grass grow a little longer!
(3) Put your food waste to good use. Fruit and vegetable scraps, coffee grounds, eggshells – along wide grass and plant clippings, dry leaves and finely chopped wood – make for a great compost. Spread this among flowerbeds and in your borders to encourage plant growth. Try to avoid peat compost, as peat extraction can have serious environmental implications. Food scraps can also be put out for some of the larger mammals which can be seen in our gardens – urban foxes, badgers, and even muntjac deer!
(4) Plant a range of flowers, trees, and shrubs. These are so important for pollinators and they support a healthy ecosystem. Studies are showing that bees, wasps, and butterflies are all suffering marked population declines – a few flowers of different species can be a great draw for these insects. Also, don’t swat them if they get indoors, just encourage them out with a newspaper!! Lavender, honeysuckle, thyme, and sunflowers are all loved by insects. There’s plenty of guidance online about what to plant and when. Here’s a guide to helping bees flourish in your garden: http://www.lbka.org.uk/pollinator_friendly_plants.html
(5) Establish bird-boxes, or hedgehog houses. You can either buy these ready-made boxes or have a go at making them yourself. The RSPB has some handy pointers if you opt for the DIY-approach: https://www.rspb.org.uk/get-involved/activities/give-nature-a-home-in-your-garden/garden-activities/giveahogahome/
Any one of these steps can be a great way of helping nature to thrive in our gardens, however big or small they might be. If you don’t have a garden, even a few window-boxes or hanging baskets with a healthy range of flowers can make a big difference for your local bees, wasps, butterflies, and other insects.
If you’re lucky, you’ll get a whole host of birds, insects, mammals, and other wildlife visiting your garden. Here’s a few photos of what we’ve seen in our garden over the past year or so (heavy vetting was needed to select the best images… some of these are even in focus!).
Which is your favourite? I love the grey squirrels, even though they’re not native, but the green woodpecker is so beautiful!