Alice, Animals, Birds, Conservation, Wildlife

Many species of wild animals are on the decline, including hedgehogs, sparrows, and song thrushes. With an estimated 24 million gardens in the UK, these outdoor spaces have huge potential to nurture an array of creatures. Here are some simple solutions for how to help wildlife in your garden.

how to help wildlife in your garden

Go natural

An immaculate garden with with a tidy lawn, perfectly pruned hedges and every fallen leaf disposed of will impress your neighbours, but isn’t the best way to welcome wildlife. Leaves, weeds, and overgrown shrubs provide shelter for insects, birds, and small mammals. Long grass in particular is a great habitat, so make sure to leave at least a patch of your lawn unmown. Weeds are also a food source for many insects, including butterflies and moths.

Avoid pesticides

Pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides will destroy unwanted pests, however chemicals are not selective: they will also destroy other insects including beneficial pollinators. Even insects such as aphids and slugs can be beneficial in maintaining the food chain. Alternative methods to protect your plants include using a cloche or fleece, companion planting, and using grease bands for trees.

Just add water

A pond is a great way of attracting an array of wildlife into your garden, including frogs, newts, birds, and insects. Make sure to incorporate a sloping bank area so animals can easily step in and out, and avoid adding fish as they eat tadpoles. If you don’t have space for a full-blown pond, a birdbath is a great way of providing drinking and bathing water to wild birds, and make sure to leave a bowl of water for thirsty wildlife on hot days.

Feed the birds

Food supplies for wild birds can run short, particularly in the winter, so it’s a great idea to offer nutrition for our feathered friends. It’s important to stick to a regular feeding schedule as irregular feeding could cause birds to expend energy flying to your garden then find there is no food. Make sure food is kept out of the reach of cats, and some of it is protected to allow small birds to feed in safety. Our range of bird feeders has a range of styles to suit various species and garden styles.

how to help wildlife in your garden

Bee-friendly flowers

Bees are highly beneficial pollinators, however due to the varroa mite and agricultural pesticides, their population is declining. Make your garden a rich food source for these creatures by planting open flowers such as daisies; flowering trees (including fruit trees); and legumes such as beans, peas, sweet peas. Sowing multiple plants in succession rather than occasional plants dotted around your garden works best. You can find out more about bee conservation in this article.

Diversity

A garden full of the same flower species creates a bold display, but isn’t great for wildlife. Growing a range of flowers provides a strong supply of nectar and helps create a healthy ecosystem with a wide range of insects, birds, and mammals.

Animal habitats

Bird nest boxes are a great way of providing shelter for wild birds and protecting them from predators. Our collection includes a variety of models to accommodate various species of bird; from small round-holed boxes for tits to more open styles for robins. There are now more habitat options available for other creatures. Our Hedgehog House Care Pack provides a great hibernation haven, and our Ladybird Tower is perfect for housing beneficial insects. Piles of logs and sticks can also provide shelter for various critters.

Compost

In addition to recycling kitchen waste and enriching the soil, compost can also enhance the bacterial and fungal life in your garden, which provides a base for other wildlife. A compost heap can also provide a home for creatures such as woodlice, worms, and frogs. Check out our guide on how to compost here!

A gap in the fence

Make sure animals such as hedgehogs and frogs can benefit the new wildlife-friendly additions to your garden by making sure your fences have some gaps at the bottom to allow wildlife to move through. This will also help link habitats together. However, if you or one of your neighbours have a dog, ensure that the gap is small enough that the dog cannot escape!

Let us know which adorable creatures have been visiting your garden on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram!

 

All About Garden Birds, Animals, Birds, Megan, Wildlife

Welcome to our next post in our garden bird series. Today we will be taking a peek into the lives of chaffinches, one of the most common finches seen in British gardens. Their colourful plumage and loud song make the chaffinch unmistakable and unmissable in terms of bird watching. To find out more about the common chaffinch, read on!

All About Garden Birds: Chaffinches

What Does a Chaffinch Look Like?

The common chaffinch, latin name Fringilla coelebs, is a small passerine bird, or perching bird, that lies in the finch family, alongside goldfinches.

juvenile chaffinch
Juvenile Chaffinch

The male and female chaffinch both have white stripes on their tails and wings, but they differ greatly in colour. Males have strikingly coloured plumage, with a blueish-grey cap and copper underparts. The vibrant colours of the males’ feathers become even more pronounced during breeding season when they are attracting the more plain looking grey-brown females. Juvenile chaffinches resemble the female but are smaller in size.

Where Will I See Chaffinches?

Chaffinches are not migratory birds, so you will see it in the UK all year round. You will find them in woodlands, hedgerows and parks as well as in your garden.

All About Garden Birds: Chaffinches

The chaffinch is present in most of Europe, Asia and northwest Africa and was introduced from its native Britain to many of its overseas territories in the latter half of the 19th century. It is one of the most common and widespread birds in the finch family.

When Do Chaffinches Breed?

Males start defending their breeding territories as early as February, but breeding usually begins in late April. It is largely dependent on the Spring temperatures, occurring earlier in the south and later in the north. Breeding can continue until as late as July.

Mating begins by the male attracting a female to his territory with bird song. Three out of nine calls present in the chaffinch during the breeding season are courtship calls. The first two, “kseep” and “tchirp” are made by the male to facilitate pair formation and the last, “seep”, is a call that signals acceptance from the female. Interestingly, during the winter months when breeding is over, the number of calls diminishes from nine to only two for each sex.

chaffinch perching on a tree branch

Once paired, the female will build a nest with a deep cup in the fork of the tree. Nests are often very well camouflaged and difficult to locate to the untrained eye. Nesting materials include grass, moss, cobwebs and lichen, and the nest will be lined with feathers and rootlets.

Clutches typically consist of four to five eggs and are laid in the early morning at daily intervals. Eggs vary in colour, from off-white with brown spots to blueish-green. They are incubated for around 14 days by the female before fledglings hatch. Young are fed by both male and female before flying the nest several weeks later.

As chaffinches like to nest in trees, it is worth putting up a bird box that will help encourage breeding and may attract chaffinches to breed in your garden.

What Do Chaffinches Eat?

During breeding season, chaffinches feed mainly on invertebrates, feeding insects and caterpillars to their young. They search for their prey by foraging in trees and may even be seen catching flying insects in the air. Other invertebrates in their breeding season diet include spiders, earwigs and aphids.

chaffinch pecking at the ground

Outside of breeding season, chaffinches eat seeds and also feed directly off of plants. They are ground feeders, so you are likely to see them feeding off seeds that have fallen around your bird table. You can always invest in a ground feeder too if you would like to see more chaffinches in your garden.  

Conclusion

We hope you enjoyed finding out about chaffinches in this post! Keep a look out for the next in this series, where we will be taking a deep dive into dunnocks. If you’ve missed out on any post in these series, check them out here:

Robins

Collared Doves

Blue Tits

Goldfinches

Megan at PrimroseMegan works in the Primrose marketing team. When she is not at her desk you will find her half way up a hill in the Chilterns
or enjoying the latest thriller series on Netflix. Megan also enjoys cooking vegetarian feasts with veggies from her auntie’s vegetable garden.

See all of Megan’s posts.

Animals, Megan, Ponds, Wildlife

Whether you have a pond, or you’re thinking of building a pond in your garden, you may be wondering about the wildlife ponds attract. Pond are rich habitats for all sorts of wildlife. To find out more about the pond wildlife you may spot in your garden, read on.

Pond Wildlife

Frogs

The common frog is one of the most recognisable types of pond wildlife you will find taking a dip in your pond. Long, striped legs and smooth, moist skin characterise the common frog, which are found throughout the UK in damp habitats. They are active throughout most of the year, only hibernating during the colder winter months. Frogs are carnivores and their diet consists of insects including flies, mosquitoes and dragonflies.

Pond Wildlife - Frogs

Toads

Toads are distinguishable from frogs by their skin, which is dry and warty in appearance. They travel by crawling rather than hopping and are larger than the common frog. Although especially found in wet locations, toads can also inhabit open countryside and other dry areas well away from standing water. Toads are nocturnal, so you are unlikely to see them until dusk, when they venture out often travelling great distances to hunt. A toad’s diet consists of insects and they have even been known to consume small mice.

Pond Wildlife - Toads

Newts

There are three species of newt that are native to the UK: the great crested newt, the palmate newt and the smooth newt.

The great crested newt is the largest, measuring up to 16 cm in length. Appearing almost black, they are actually dark grey-brown and covered in darker-coloured spots. You are most likely to spot them during the spring breeding season, as they spend the rest of the year in woodland and grassland. Great crested newts are the least widespread of newt species in the British Isles, and are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

Pond Wildlife - Newts

In contrast, the palmate newt is the smallest of UK newt species. Olive-brown in colour, they prefer shallow ponds and are active during the daylight hours. Fascinatingly, the females lay their eggs individually and wrap them in leaves of aquatic plants to protect them.

Very similar in appearance to the palmate newt, smooth newts are species you are most likely to spot in and around your garden pond as they are the most common newt in the British Isles.

Invertebrates

Harder to spot because of their size, garden ponds can be home to a wide variety of invertebrates including:

  • Dragonflies
  • Mayflies
  • Snails
  • Water fleas
  • Pond Skaters
  • Water beetles

Pond Wildlife - Dragonflies

All of these species are important parts of the ecosystem, playing roles as both prey and predators. Many feed on algae and aquatic plants and others, such as dragonflies, are carnivorous and feed on smaller insects.

Birds

Most smaller garden ponds are too small for wetland birds such as ducks, swan and geese. However, you may spot wild birds using your pond to bathe in or take a drink from. You can introduce sloping sides and logs to your pond to make it a safer environment for these birds. Adding pond plants and keeping up with general pond maintenance will also make sure there’s bountiful amounts of insects for insect-eating birds.

Wild Birds

One feathered visitor that may not be welcome to your pond is the heron. They mainly feed on fish, and often visit garden ponds looking for an easy meal. If you want to deter herons from your pond, you can take a look at our post on how to heron proof a pond.

Ponds are home to a wide variety of wildlife. If you are particularly fond of observing wildlife in your garden installing a pond is a no-brainer.

 

Megan at PrimroseMegan works in the Primrose marketing team. When she is not at her desk you will find her half way up a hill in the Chilterns
or enjoying the latest thriller series on Netflix. Megan also enjoys cooking vegetarian feasts with veggies from her auntie’s vegetable garden.

See all of Megan’s posts.

Animals, Conservation, Megan, Wildlife

How to Create a Butterfly Garden - Butterfly on Stem of Plant

Butterflies are beautiful insects and fascinating to watch. The purpose of butterfly gardening is to produce an outdoor space that attracts butterflies. Who doesn’t enjoy seeing fluttering about in their garden? Butterflies feed on nectar and there are many nectar-producing plants that will help attract butterflies. You can also provide a place for butterflies to rest and create an area for puddling. This is a interesting behaviour that occurs in other insects as well as butterflies. In involves insects sucking up fluid from rotting plant matter, ensuring they get the minerals they need. Read on to find out more about creating a butterfly garden that will be sure to thrive!

Importance of Butterfly Conservation

Putting time into creating a butterfly garden can in turn contribute to increasing the butterfly population, which has been on the decline in the UK since 1976. A lot of this is down to destruction of natural habitats due to urbanisation. Butterfly species have also struggled to cope with changing climates.

Butterflies are widely considered an indicator of environmental health; their decline is of great concern to charities like Butterfly Conservation. Taking small steps such as starting a butterfly garden helps increase the chance of native species surviving these severe changes in environment. You never know – your butterfly garden might contribute to stopping the extinction of a certain endangered species!

Going Organic

Butterflies are insects and therefore, as you may have guessed, are not fans of insecticides and pesticides. As creating a butterfly garden is a contribution to the conservation of their species in itself, it is best paired with going organic. Chemicals like pesticides are toxic to butterflies. Additionally laying off from using them will mean the population of beneficial insects in your garden will grow.

There are plenty of ways to rid of pests using biological methods that will not harm butterflies and any other beneficial insects. You can find out more about going organic in your garden in our blog post here.

Butterfly Species Native to the UK

Knowing which butterflies are native to your area is essential when creating a butterfly garden. It will help you know what species of plants you should plant, as well as aid you in the identification of the butterflies that visit your garden. Common butterflies you might see in the UK include

  • Holly blue
  • Comma
  • Speckled Wood
  • Red Admiral
  • Orange Tip

What to Plant in a Butterfly Garden

How to Create a Butterfly Garden - Lavender Plant

The plants that are most likely to attract butterflies are ones whose flowers produce nectar and pollen in abundance. Choosing a variety of different plants like this will allow different species of butterfly to pick and choose their preferred nectar. Plants that attract butterflies include lavender, butterfly bush, daylily and vervain. Other wildflowers and old-fashioned flowers will also attract butterflies. Plant a diverse range of plants that bloom throughout each season. This allows butterflies access to pollen and nectar all year round.

It is also important to plant host plants for butterflies to home their caterpillars. Vegetable plants and herbs work best for this.  These will also provide a food source for caterpillars when they hatch. Suitable plants include fennel, nettle, milkweed and thistle.

Food & Water for Butterflies

How to Create a Butterfly Garden - Two Butterflies on Plate Eating Fruit

As with any creature, butterflies require food and water to survive. You can provide them with a water source by installing a bird bath. This in turn helps other wildlife such as birds. You could even plan out a water garden, which is a pond built for the purpose of housing aquatic plants. A more straightforward way to provide a water source is to dig a shallow hole, ensure it is damp and cover it with sand. This method also provides provide butterflies an area to puddle.

Butterflies’ main food source is nectar so planting nectar-producing plants will in turn provide them with food. In addition, butterflies enjoy the sugar from ripe fruit such as bananas or oranges. Place any fruit scraps on a shallow plate in the garden and cover with fruit juice to prevent it drying up. If you have any fruit trees outside, resist picking up and composting the rotting fruit. Leave it out for butterflies to feast on.

Butterfly Watching

How to Create a Butterfly Garden - Table and Chairs in Garden

Butterfly watching is a fascinating and enjoyable pastime which can also be a very mindful experience. Watch out your window, or take a seat outside, whatever you prefer. Quietly watch whilst butterflies fly from flower to flower and feed on nectar. Admire their beautiful wings whilst observing them resting as they recharge after expending energy flying. Butterfly watching is one of the joys that comes with creating a butterfly garden right on your doorstep.

Overall, creating a butterfly garden is a truly rewarding experience. You are sure to enjoy admiring the diverse range of species that it will bring to your garden. Furthermore you will be contributing to the conservation of UK butterflies and helping the environment, which is definitely as plus!

Megan at PrimroseMegan works in the Primrose marketing team. When she is not at her desk you will find her half way up a hill in the Chilterns
or enjoying the latest thriller series on Netflix. Megan also enjoys cooking vegetarian feasts with veggies from her auntie’s vegetable garden.

See all of Megan’s posts.