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Helping Wildlife (2004)

Page updated - 02 October 2009

For further information - Suffolk Wildlife Trust on 01473 890089 or Suffolk Wildlife Trust Website

Cornard News - This advice was previously published in Cornard News

2004 Spring

Issue 17


Gardens may be the only wildlife habitat in urban areas. You can enhance the wildlife value of your garden by making a few small changes to its management and design that can really bring your garden to life. Being ‘wildlife-friendly’ also means using fewer chemicals, which saves you money and helps the environment. Under-used areas of your garden are particularly valuable and perhaps you could consider laying them aside for wildlife?

The greater the variety of habitats you provide on your garden, the more wildlife you will attract. Try to provide both structural variety and different features at different times of year. Climbing plants on fences and walls make nesting and roosting sites for birds, and a haven for insects and small mammals. Plants such as honeysuckle are a good choice as they have nectar-rich flowers followed by fruit. Ivy is particularly valuable, as it is evergreen, so provides resources for wildlife all year round. Hedgerows, especially native species, are one of the most important habitats for wildlife and with correct management will support a good variety of birds, small mammals, insects and plants. Hedgerows also provide corridors along which wildlife can travel, which is particularly important in urban areas that may have very few wildlife habitats. By leaving some grass margins of at least two metres, if possible, you will provide a refuge for small mammals, reptiles and invertebrates. If possible, leave some areas uncut throughout the year, varying the areas left on a three-year rotation to avoid the development of coarse grass and scrub. This will help our declining butterflies.

A range of nest boxes with different sizes and entry holes will encourage different birds such as robins, tits and thrushes. Solitary bees will make use of bundles of hollow plant stems or paper straws or holes drilled into blocks of wood. Nest boxes can also be bought or made to help attract hedgehogs or bumble bees.  Carefully positioned bat boxes offer an additional option for bats searching for a roost site. You can have a productive and attractive garden without using chemical herbicides and pesticides, which damage the environment. Providing them with suitable habitat and food can encourage natural predators of pests.

George Millins – Local Conservationist.


2004 Summer

Issue 18


Gardens may be the only wildlife habitat in urban areas. You can enhance the wildlife value of your garden by making a few small changes to its management and design that can really bring your garden to life. Being ‘wildlife-friendly’ also means using fewer chemicals, which saves you money and helps the environment. Under-used areas of your garden are particularly valuable and perhaps you could consider laying them aside for wildlife?

Decaying plant material seethes with insects, worms, mites and other invertebrates. The addition of a compost heap to your garden may provide a refuge and feeding area for insect and slug-eating creatures such as hedgehogs, birds, toads, grass snakes and slow-worms. By making your own compost you will also be helping to protect our precious peat bogs and reduce pollution - as well as saving you money. A pile of logs or dead wood in a shady corner will feed beetle larvae and shelter many other animals, including frogs, toads, hedgehogs and slow-worms. Sheets of corrugated iron laid down provide places for reptiles and amphibians to shelter and warm themselves. If you wish to create a log pile but lack the materials contact me or Suffolk Wildlife Trust. Try companion planting to incorporate a variety of native plants and shrubs into your garden especially those of local provenance. Certain plants, mixed with fruit and vegetables, will add variety and support a wider range of wildlife. They can help to reduce damage by pests by attracting pest predators or by acting as hosts for beneficial insects such as ladybirds, lacewings and hoverflies, which all feed on aphids.

The wildlife value of gardens should not be underestimated. Whilst individual areas may be relatively small, together they form a patchwork across our landscape, linking urban green spaces with nature reserves and the wider countryside.

George Millins – Local Conservationist.


2004 Autumn

Issue 19


Take a look at the Ordnance Survey (OS) maps for West Suffolk, note the percentage of arable land or ‘argi-desert’ look for the Wildlife Reserves. Not many, are there! only a minute proportion of the overall landscape. This exercise will illustrate the critical importance of your garden to the survival of much of our wildlife and the methods and the management of your gardens, including buildings, is vital.

Try to use environmentally-friendly products where possible. The use of chemicals on your garden should, if used at all, be kept to an absolute minimum to reduce the adverse impact they have on the environment. Natural fertilisers (from cattle, horses, chickens etc) or green manure produced from nettles or comfrey, are very effective. Horse manure is locally available, for details contact the numbers below.

You can provide year-round habitats for many species by avoiding the temptation to be too tidy in your garden. Areas of grass left uncut and piles of leaves are all valuable shelters for amphibians, insects, spiders and small mammals, whilst hollow stems left over the winter provide homes for insect larvae and pupae. Try leaving some windfall fruit to provide a valuable autumn food supply for mammals, birds and insects. Look again at the plants that you normally pull up as weeds - many of them are beautiful wildflowers and are very important food plants for butterflies and other insects. Allowing some plants to go to seed will provide food for seed-eating birds, whilst a patch of nettles (in a container to stop them spreading) will be valuable for some beautiful butterflies such as the red admiral, peacock and comma.

Compost heaps are used as Grass Snake hatcheries where these reptiles exist and therefore should not be disturbed until the end of September. Hedgehogs are no longer seen in some suburban areas and there are a number of reasons for their decline. The loss of habitat is a common factor affecting wildlife generally, in rural areas modern intensive farming is a major cause and in urban & sub-urban areas ‘road-kill’ is a significant factor. Destruction can take place in gardens also. Hedgehogs have litters of 4-5 young between April and September in nests under ground-hugging shrubs & bushes, under sheds and other outbuildings. If disturbed the young are likely to be lost – so please be vigilant when planning clearance of shrubs, bushes or outbuildings. The same habitats also act as winter nest sites (hibernacula).

It is a popular misconception that birds have finished nesting by about the end of June, while this is true for some species others, including the thrush & pigeon family have several broods right through until Sept/Oct. Tasks such as shrubs & tree pruning and clearance, historically undertaken during winter months, now take place when the weather is warm & pleasant thus endangering nesting birds & other wildlife so please make a thorough search BEFORE staring work.

George Millins – Local Conservationist.


2004 Winter

Issue 20


Now is a good time to look at your garden, house & outbuildings and assess what you can do to reverse the current decline in much of our wildlife. House sparrows are now a red-listed species due to a rapid decline in recent years and Starlings are included in the amber-list for similar reasons. One common factor is likely to be a lack of nesting opportunities in modern houses and now is a good time to securely place a variety of nesting boxes in safe locations ready for spring.

If our nesting birds are to raise young to maturity we should try to provide garden features that enable birds to – at least in part-feed in a natural manner. Ivy (our native variety) is a wonderful plant to have in your garden, wherever you can tolerate it, and is the last major source of pollen in the autumn and the last major source of berries in late winter/spring. Many invertebrates inhabit its dense foliage and it provides a hibernaculum for the Brimstone butterfly. Quite a number of garden birds use ivy as a nest site; these include Blackbirds, Wren, Song thrush, Robin and House sparrow will forage for insects within the ivy.

Most people will strive to clear bramble from their garden but in larger gardens a controlled patch may be acceptable and is very valuable for much of our wildlife. It is a favourite nesting site for many species of smaller birds, if not too close to the ground, will provide a roost, daytime refuge, and food in the form of insects and berries. Two or three bird feeders in safe elevated positions, to safeguard against predation by cats, will help nestlings survive through spring & summer, and increase winter survival rates. You may be surprised at the variety of birds visiting your feeders particularly if feeding sunflower hearts. Try to position feeders where you can observe the birds as this will provide a great deal of entertainment & pleasure. For further information the British Trust for Ornithology (B.T.O.) are involved in valuable research based on garden bird reports, if you would like to help call the B.T.O. on 01842 750050.

Garden sheds placed a little way off the ground will also fulfil the needs of this declining mammal. Bat boxes fixed to a building about four metres from the ground or secured to a substantial tree preferably in threes, one facing north the other two at 120 degrees (approx S/E & S/W), they should have a reasonably clear flight path to the box.

Hedgehogs, other small mammals and birds including bats can be helped enormously by providing some of their very basic essentials. A rough patch of ground with ground level ivy & other dense shrubs with mature seed heads of plants will benefit much of the wildlife and also be a refuge for hedgehogs, where they can hibernate undisturbed and make a nest for their young next year. Finally do not forget the all-important compost HEAP (not container) again a direct & indirect benefit to most wildlife in & around your garden.

There are fact sheets for hedgehogs, bats & all other mammal plus reptiles & amphibians available on request. Please contact me during the day (01787) 376655 or (01787) 374874 in the evenings.

George Millins – Local Conservationist.