CREATE YOUR GARDEN PATCH FROM SCRATCH
Birds and insects aren’t the only things filling the air above editor Matt’s garden – this month, he’s been taking steps to ensure the local bats have somewhere safe to roost
BALMY SUMMER EVENINGS have been in pretty short supply as I write this, but when we have been able to enjoy them, our local pipistrelle bats have turned up just as the light is dying, flying a regular circuit around our Field Maple tree. They’re always great to see, so I thought it was time for me to do something to help them out, and to make them a more permanent presence in our garden.
Bat boxes are available from most wildlife stores and websites, as well as garden centres, and I used a Natural Timber Bat Box from Ark Wildlife (£14.95, arkwildlife.co.uk). Using untreated wood is important, as bats are deterred by weatherproofing, etc, but this box is sturdy and durable to resist the elements, with a small opening to discourage predators. A single screw was enough to secure it to the main trunk of the tree. Ideally, they should face between south-east and south-west. Mine is a bit more due west,
but it was the only spot meeting all the other essential conditions: 3m up, sheltered from strong winds but exposed to the sun for part of the day, and with a clear flight line in. You could also put them under the eaves of your house if you wanted. The last month has also shown me the value of continuing to feed birds throughout the summer. For a couple of weeks, Starlings emptied the suet feeder almost as soon as I topped it up, and I came down one morning to find a flock of 41 (yes, I counted them!) on and around it, including lots of juveniles. New birds have been at a premium, but while we were shooting the pics for this feature, our sharp-eyed photographer, Tom Bailey, spotted a Peregrine soaring above us. A pair have moved into a local quarry, so presumably this was one of them that we saw. Later the same day, a sudden flutter of alarm rippled through the many House Martins and Swifts swirling above the house, and a Hobby scythed through the sky right on cue. Glorious! Summer’s a great time to try a Big Sit. Originally an American idea, you can set your own rules, but basically you watch from one spot (or from within a circle of around 5m radius) for a set length of time, and record as many bird species as you can (they can include flyovers – the birds don’t have to enter the viewing area). I did four hours, sitting comfortably near our shed, and logged 31. It’s a great way to get familiar with what’s regular around your garden and its environs. POND UPDATE Wet but warm weather has sent the wildflowers around the pond into a growing frenzy, so I staked a few of them with bamboo poles to keep them upright. They’re providing a lot of colour on the garden at the moment, and several Azure Damselflies can usually be found on them, adding their own touch of beauty.
The last month has also shown me the value of continuing to feed birds throughout the summer