Winter appears to be receding fast – the Redwings in Stonecourt Old Orchard have disappeared back to Northern and Eastern Europe to breed. These winter visiting thrushes can often be seen in large flocks, together with another visitor thrush, the Fieldfare. It was disappointing only to have seen a few of the latter around the orchards this year. Happily a few early Summer visitors have started to show up. Chiffchaffs clearly had a good breeding season last year as several of this little Summer visiting Warbler are already singing their very distinctive “Chiff – Chaff” two note song and a couple of Blackcaps have made an early appearance. The most surprising occurrence of all that I’ve noticed was the early nest building by a pair of long tailed tits in the first week of February – before the last snow. I was concerned this might cause them to abandon it – but they are still lining the lichen covered ball with feathers they have foraged. Temperatures over the next couple of weeks are forecast to be warming – so look out for a lot more nesting activity – how about trying a bird box in your garden.
Hedgehogs are a native species that have reduced massively over the last 30 years. There are still a few about to be seen, they are mostly nocturnal and will certainly help reduce slugs in the garden. Try and make sure there are gaps or holes under your fence so they can easily move about. There are various hedgehog foods available which should be meat based – cat food is one of the preferred items (but not milk). Food should be hidden in a fox and cat proof area.
Amazingly there are over 270 species of wild bee in the UK and like everything else are struggling due to habitat loss. I’ve seen a few bumblebees, flying about already and its fairly easy to pick out different species by the overall size and abdominal colour ranging from light yellow to a darker orange/red. As we are approaching the traditional Easter horticultural window, how about planting some bee friendly plants in the garden. Bees do have a predilection for purple plants especially lavender and buddleia, the latter also loved by butterflies. Additionally how about planting one end of a flower bed with a wild flower mix , a pack of seeds can be purchased for about £5 and will enhance the habitat in the garden for many insects.