The Native Butterfly Garden at Hampton Court is a meshed enclosure containing many of our native butterflies, the rarest of which is the Camberwell Beauty – a butterfly I had never seen before, except in a photograph, so I was thrilled to see dozens of them fluttering amongst the flowers in their enclosure. Things were a lot more exotic in the Eden Project Dome, where swallowtails swooped around the plants, along with many other colourful tropical butterflies, including a cluster of enormous flutterers feasting on fruit.
Much as I would love to give a hedgehog a home in my garden, our area is inundated with badgers who consider them a tasty snack. Although we have now (fingers crossed) secured our boundaries from badger invasion, hedgehogs need a large area to range over – so one way and another this rules them out. For those of you who are badger free, the best way to assist hedgehogs is by helping them avoid man-made hazards and providing them with suitable places to nest, especially in the winter. They will reward you by eating slugs, beetles, and caterpillars. With every Hogilo Hedgehog House & Feeding Lounge bought from Garden4less in May a total £10 from the sale will be donated to the British Hedgehog Preservation Society (BHPS).
©CJ Wildbirdfoods Ltd
With the annual ‘National Nest Box Week’ running from 14-21 February this is the perfect time of year to site a nest box in your garden. The event aims to encourage everyone to put up a nest box in their local area and help in the conservation and breeding of British wild birds. CJ Wildlife’s Education & Research Officer, Martin George, explained “The wet weather conditions in 2012 impacted on breeding and many species had fewer young so it is more important than ever this year to provide as many breeding sites as we can. Siting a nest box now in preparation for the start of the breeding season means that the birds will become familiar with it and include it in their territories, making it more likely they will use it when the time comes to set up home.”
Traditionally nest boxes are made from wood but they are also produced using other materials. CJ Wildlife offer the WoodStone® range, constructed from a mix of wood fibres and concrete to offer a longer lifespan and maximum insulation. It is the opening on the nest box that determines which bird it will appeal to most, with Blue Tits, Great Tits and Willow Tits preferring a smaller entrance between 25-28mm whereas Robins, Wrens and Blackbirds prefer a large section of the front to be completely open.
When setting up nest boxes location is key. Like us, birds are looking for a home that is safe, secure and warm so position your nest boxes at a height between 1.5m and 5.5m (out of the reach of predators), away from prevailing winds and direct sunlight.
CJ Wildlife has a range of nest boxes suitable for a variety of species to ensure that all your garden birds are well cared for across the seasons. Visit www.birdfood.co.uk or call Freephone 0800 731 2820 to request a Free handbook of garden wildlife.
There are few advantages to being stuck indoors with a damaged leg, but I do have a great view of the birdfeeders and the bird bath and I am gratified by how well-patronised they both are. Blue tits and willow warblers queue up to bathe and I’ve seen as many as six at a time enjoying a communal bath, but on the birdfeeders the star of the show is the Greater Spotted Woodpecker. He is a regular visitor who announces his arrival by flying into the Tulip tree calling a couple of times and then swooping on to the feeder where he refuels at length before heading off into the surrounding trees.
Whilst we’re on a nature theme here’s a photo taken on the Pelion Peninsular, Greece. At first I thought it was a hummingbird but it proved to be a moth. I’m not surprised it has earned the name the hummingbird hawk moth since it flies the same. Masters at side slipping it proved quite difficult to get a photo and even when I did it’s wings were going so fast (25 beats per second apparently) you could hardly see them.