Most of us associate birds, bees, butterflies and bugs with our gardens and rightly so these are excellent wildlife to see and hear on a daily basis. But there's a whole host of other wildlife that's just itching to spend more time in your garden, or more importantly may already be there and could do with a little attention. Here’s a few of the most common ones to look out for:
Britain’s favourite mammal, although alarmingly now on the UK Red List for being endangered, is nocturnal, so you are only likely to see one around your garden around late evening and at night. Usually there's something wrong if you spot one out during the day. You can hear them snuffling their way through the undergrowth or leaf piles and they make for fabulous viewing on a wildlife camera if you can get one set up. A hedgehog house is a great investment for general shelter whilst you do the gardening and provides safe refuge for the hibernation months. During spring and summer they will be on the look out for food to keep them well during breeding, feed their young and then gain extra weight to see them through the winter. It’s a good idea to provide supplementary food, and essential water as they can go many miles each night on their search. On that note, accessibility in and out of your garden is crucial and it only takes a small gap through to the neighbours - what’s 5 inches between friends?
Love them or loathe them in your garden, squirrels are a great source of entertainment. More often it will be a grey squirrel that you see unless you happen to live in an area where the rust-coloured, tufted ears and bushy tail of a red squirrel grace your garden.
Chasing up and down tree trunks is the usual courtship fun for squirrels and they can have two litters each year, one in early spring and one in early summer; so expect a few more juveniles 10 weeks or so after that. As expected nuts and seeds are their favourite foods and a squirrel can hoard up to 3000 nuts a season to get them through the winter!
Squirrels are adventurous and intelligent enough to work out ‘mission impossible’ ways of getting to food, especially from bird feeders. But we’ve thought of solutions to help keep them away from pilfering your bird food. Our Guardian caged feeders mean the majority of squirrels can’t get through the cage; and we also have a Squirrel Guard Baffle to prevent them from reached to the tops or ports of other feeders.
However, they will also take the easy option, so having a specific Squirrel Feeder can help. Place it between their entry point into your garden and the bird station and they are less likely to bother going any further - win, win.
Another night-time visitor and all you may get is a glimpse of erratic wings in the air from the corner of your eye. Bats don't make nests so need crevices in trees or buildings to roost. They are usually very social and a bat box can accommodate a large number of bats - not surprising since the Common Pipistrelle you are most likely to see is only 4-5cm in body length. Not long after dusk they venture out to feed in mid-flight on insects (which are drawn to water) and they are known to consume thousands of midges each night - a bonus if you spend your evenings in the garden.
Between October and March bats do a similar thing to hibernation, known as ‘torpor’ when they lower their body temperature and metabolic rate and go sleepy. Since they mate before the winter rest, females look to give birth to young the following June.
Ponds are a bonus feature for many garden wildlife, not only to drink from and bathe in, but they also provide a means of attracting food sources.
Frogs and Toads
In early spring frogs, and also toads, will be making their way to ponds to breed so are quite vulnerable when hopping across roads and driveways at all hours. You may hear the vocal croaks of the males in the evening attracting females. Amphibians seek refuge in log or stone piles and feed on damp vegetation and insects usually close to water, so a graduated pond in your garden is great opportunity to encourage them. Did you know that frog spawn is laid in clumps and toad spawn laid on long strings? Just be careful when clearing any spaces as you may get a surprise, or try a study frog and toad house for more safety.
And if you are really lucky…
The familiar ‘too-wit-too-woo’ call of the Tawny Owl is the one you are probably hearing in urban areas and gardens but they are pretty secretive and nocturnal.
Foxes and Badgers venture more and more into gardens these days, so the best way to catch them at their best without sitting for hours into the night is to capture their activity on a wildlife camera.