Bird Watching (UK) - - Your View - WORDS: MATT MER­RITT

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, ark­ 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

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