Create your garden patch from scratch
It’s time to take steps to ensure that your garden is full of aerobatic hirundines next spring
Putting nestboxes up now could ensure you get House Martins staying next year
IT’S NEVER TOO early to start planning for next year, so the last week of September was spent preparing for spring, with my main job being to try to attract some of the many House Martins still wheeling around over the town to nest under the eaves of our house next year.
They’re a species that has declined worryingly in recent years, for a variety of reasons, including a lack of nest sites – modern buildings often have the sort of fascia boards that are impossible for them to attach their mud-cup nests to. The good news, though, is that they very readily adapt to specialist nestboxes. Our 1960s semi has large concrete gutters that offer lots of overhanging shelter, just as House Martins prefer, so I decided to attach a double nestbox from Vine House Farms’ range (vinehousefarm.co.uk) to the rear gutter. The earlier you can do this in the autumn, the better, as House Martins will prospect for future nest sites before they depart on their epic migration to sub-saharan Africa. We still had plenty overhead in the first week of October, so I’ve got my fingers crossed that some of them have taken note of a couple of desirable residences for next year! Other tasks have included adding to the log and twig piles around our Hedgehog house, and we’re certainly still being rewarded by regular visits from the prickly customer. Do take great care at this time of year if you’re having a bonfire – Hedgehogs often hide and hibernate in bonfire piles, so try to create them only just before you light them. I’ve re-staked our monstrous, triffid-like sunflower yet again, as the seed-packed head was beginning to bend it over, and we want to make sure that it’s available for the birds to forage from. This time, I’ve tied it to the fence, so it should last! The only bird added to the list this month was Tawny Owl, a very noisy one calling from just beyond the end of the garden, or perhaps even in our Field Maple, one chilly night. But just as interesting has been the movements of species already seen. Coal Tits returned in late September after several months when they were pretty much invisible, and Starlings are back in good numbers, too, with a mini-murmuration of a couple of hundred wheeling over the garden one fine morning – smaller parties are regularly dropping in onto the seed feeders again now. It all means that there’s plenty to catch the eye, even as the garden starts to wind down for winter – I’m hopeful there are still a few more surprises to be sprung.