The Garden Birder
Any plans to remodel Clare’s garden are put on hold so nature can take over and protect the wildlife within it
How your garden can help nature during the autumn months
Summer sucks when you’re as pale as me. Autumn, however, is joyful – wrapping up in itchy jumpers (the discomfort is simply a concession to style), packing flasks of tea in rucksacks, rolling around in leaves that match my hair – I am born again! A month on, I’m more settled in my new home. I’ve even found a local dog to walk. We spot young Pheasants scrabbling under gorse and hawks circling overhead looking for a field mouse sandwich. In the garden, the wind has shaken most of the apples to the floor and in the conifers, the sparrows hide from the black-and-white cat. I dislike conifers, they are not pretty, but for small garden birds, they provide a dense, dark nesting spot, so if you’ve got any in your garden, check before you trim as some stragglers can still remain. We’ve had a Fox visit. He took some pants off the line and tossed them in the middle of the lawn. I hope it was him at least! And there’s definitely a Hedgehog snuffling in a wild corner of the garden. Soon, he will retire for the type of epic sleep we humans can only dream of. In the front garden, I’ve been keeping a close eye on a Blackbird who appears to be a little balding. At this stage, it’s unclear what has happened to him, but I make sure I leave a little extra food out for him. He likes to kick the woodchip up by the front door. At first I thought it was the cat but, on closer observation, I saw him there searching for worms and I felt that, perhaps, while wood chippings keep the beds tidy, they aren’t great for birds. Our co-existence may forever be a source of compromise and, perhaps, that’s the way it should be. At the weekend, I’ll turn over the soil in one of the beds and time how long it takes for the Robin to appear. I estimate about five minutes. The thrill of having one perch close to you while you fork over the earth is always a reminder of the beautiful relationship we can only have with garden birds, and it’s one we should never take for granted. He is one of the only birds that sing, during the winter and is the one most likely to land on your hand. This has never happened to me and I’d like it to – maybe you think that silly but I’d love to know what his little feet would feel like on my palm, whether they’d be sharp or
soft. Alas, I’m not a still person, so the chances of him mistaking me as a statue are slim. If you’re a serious birder, you’ll likely be tutting now, but I can’t hear you from here. The Red Kite has been circling above the garden again. I’d like to take a closer look but I’m yet to find a pair of binoculars (Christmas is coming, take note). Where do we stand on using binoculars in the garden? I’m in a semi-rural location but I have neighbours – I know I seem posh, so this may surprise you. What if they think I’m trying to forgo my TV licence and watch their box instead, or worse? Tell me the rules, please. While we are at it, is full camo in the garden a no-no lest I be mistaken for a lost army cadet? How about a hide? I could charge my new neighbours admission – a kind of pay-per-view arrangement. I think I could get carried away here. Being in a new house means every day offers the potential for discovery, and as such, I’m very much watching the birds to see how the ground lies. It’s tempting to remodel the garden, but I’m aware that I don’t want to disrupt the natural flow of life here, the infrastructure of this bird world, and so I will watch and wait. Autumn is the time to let nature take over, it’s time to slow down. As the leaves drop, you’ll see your own garden in a new light.