As someone born and bred in rural Devon, I find it shocking to read articles like this one that appeared in the Daily Telegraph recently:
It outlined how out of touch adults have become with nature and the countryside, with more than a third of parents admitting they could not teach their own children about British wildlife. Have we really turned into a nation so significantly removed from its land and nature, where people have little knowledge of the wildlife that surrounds them?
It seems so, as in the survey carried out for the Jordans Farm Partnership showed that large numbers of people could not identify an oak tree or even a barn owl. Only 20% of people surveyed could identify a chaffinch, while 69% of people questioned felt they were losing touch with nature, and 37% of parents confessed they did not have sufficient knowledge to teach their children.
Another survey, supported by the RSPB back in April found that out of the 2,000 adults who took part, more than a quarter could not say for sure they had seen a blue tit, and a fifth did not know that a red kite was a bird. Wow!
Reading this article has served as something of an inspiration for me, encouraging me to make some additions to my own garden nature reserve. 25 years ago, I planted a four acre woodland on my property, and I have recently installed some new features to encourage wildlife.
In an attempt to attract a variety of insects I have constructed a number of ‘bug hotels’ in spaces and clearings within the woodland. The one pictured above is the ‘Hilton’ or ‘Savoy’ version, made out of an old wine rack that became redundant when we installed a new kitchen. With a bit of added weatherproofing, the individual compartments were then filled with straws, tubes, old carpet, broken tiles, sticks, pipes, rolls of old carpet and felt etc to provide the cracks, holes and crevasses needed by visiting insects.
The version below is more of a ‘Premier inn’ version, made out of old wooden pallets. The pallets provide a real sturdy structure to work with, and can support heavier items like holed bricks and drilled logs, as well as similar contents to the wine rack hotel. This one might take a bit more time to complete though!
I have added a range of different types of nest boxes to the wood over the past few years, and many have been occupied by robins, tits, woodpeckers and the like. I make sure they are cleaned out at the end of each season, and replaced when the weather (or the woodpeckers!) get the better of them. Some of the boxes have been constructed from old waste timber found at home, but the more professional ones have been made by one of my ex-students, who has started up a successful little business of his own.
In the undergrowth surrounding the ponds and ditches, I have built a number of ‘toad abodes’. These consist of some old clay pipes I found in one of my hedgerows, protected and insulated by a mound of earth:
I have also made some smaller ones from upturned clay and plastic flower pots, with a small entrance hole cut out of the side. However, my favourite is this one made by my 4 year old Grandson – although I had to give him a hand with the hammer and nails!
I always save any storm-blown branches along with thinnings from autumn hedging to construct log piles around the woodland. It is always frustrating when these are pulled apart by visiting badgers in search of insects, but at least it proves that things are living there in the rotting wood!
Following the death of our last dogs, we were left with a collection of large plastic dog beds (big enough to bed a Bull Mastiff and a Rottweiller). These have been turned upside-down, filled with straw bedding, and placed at strategic points to encourage hibernating hedgehogs:
Hopefully, all of these new additions will provide some interesting photographs from the infra-red night camera I leave out over night. We have managed to catch a lot of different visitors – but no doubt, there is a lot more that come and go without our knowledge at all.
The camera also works well during the daytime to catch (unwelcome) visitors to the bird feeding stations:
Next on the drawing board is a permanent hide to get closer to the badgers and foxes that make regular visits throughout the year. I will keep you posted!